Last updated in October 2014

Political relations

Following the Second World War, India was the first country to end the state of war with Germany and among the first to grant the Federal Republic of Germany diplomatic recognition. It also demonstrated sympathy and support for German reunification. India regards united Germany as an important partner in its quest for a new political role in the region and the world.

Continuing mutual visits have given relations considerable impetus. Federal President Gauck paid an official visit to India from 4 to 9 February 2014. The most recent visit to India by the German side was that of Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier, who held talks with Prime Minister Modi’s new government on 7 and 8 September 2014. These visits are the latest in a long series that began with the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to Germany in 1956.

The Agenda for Indo-German Partnership in the 21st Century, which was signed by the two countries’ foreign ministers in May 2000 (and has since been updated by joint declarations), sets out potential areas for intensifying bilateral relations. Besides providing for closer coordination on regional and global policy, e.g. on Afghanistan, Iran, disarmament, fighting terrorism, climate protection and the reform of the United Nations, this partnership is designed to markedly step up cooperation in the business and energy sectors as well as in science, technology and defence.

In May 2011, Federal Chancellor Merkel and then Prime Minister Singh held the first Indo-German intergovernmental consultations in New Delhi. The Federal Chancellor was accompanied by seven ministers and ministers of state. Apart from Israel, India is the first non-European country with which Germany practises this form of close partner-like cooperation. The second Indo-German intergovernmental consultations were held in Berlin on 11 April 2013. Prime Minister Singh was accompanied on the trip by five of his ministers. During the consultations, the line ministers signed six joint declarations of intent to cooperate in a range of areas as well as issuing a joint statement under the motto “Shaping the Future Together”. The next bilateral intergovernmental consultations are scheduled for 2015.

The signing of a cooperation agreement by the two countries’ defence ministers in September 2006 extended the strategic dialogue with India by a further component: military policy. A High Defence Committee (HDC) normally meets once a year at state secretary level to approve specific defence cooperation measures. In addition to the dialogue on military policy, cooperation also extends to the armed forces and the armaments sector.

An important milestone in Indo-German relations was the Year of Germany in India, which was held from autumn 2011 until February 2013 to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and India (on 7 March 1951). The event was officially entitled “Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities”.

Economic relations

Germany is India’s principal trading partner in the EU. Since India embarked on a course of reform in 1991, the volume of trade between the two countries has increased rapidly. In recent years, however, there has been a slight decline in bilateral trade owing to the Indian’s sluggish economic growth. In 2013 and 2014, bilateral trade shrank by 7.4 per cent compared with the prvious year, to EUR 16.1 billion. German imports from India fell by 1.5 per cent and German exports to India by 11.5 per cent compared with 2012. India ranks 24th overall among Germany’s trading partners, and 25th in terms of imports and exports. Conversely, Germany ranks ninth as a supplier of goods to and eighth as a buyer of goods from India. Germany’s trade surplus of around EUR 3.4 billion (2012/13) testifies to the strong Indian demand for German goods, especially capital goods (machinery, which accounts for around a third of Germany’s total exports to India, electrical engineering products, metal goods, chemical products, motor vehicles and vehicle parts).

Indian exports to Germany focus on the textile sector, followed by chemical products, electrical engineering products, metal and leather goods and foodstuffs.

The principal bilateral economic agreements include:

  • double taxation agreement, which came into force on 19 December 1996
  • agreement on the promotion and protection of investments, which came into force in July 1998
  • trade agreement of 31 March 1955
  • agreements on cooperation in scientific research and technological development dating from 1971 and 1974

In recent years, the importance of Germany’s economic relations with India has been underscored by a number of high-level political visits. On his September 2014 visit, Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier was accompanied by a high-ranking business delegation. In April 2015, India will be the Hannover Messe’s Partner Country.

German direct investment

For decades, Germany has been among the ten principal foreign direct investors in India. With investments totalling more than USD 6 billion since April 2000, it currently ranks eighth, after Mauritius, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, the Netherlands and Cyprus. Investments have focused on the transport, electrical and metal sectors. Over the past years, the service sector (in particular insurance) has headed the field, with a share of some 26 per cent, followed by the construction and automotive industries. In the financial year 2013, new German direct investment amounted to USD 1.038 billion, compared with USD 860 million in the previous year. These figures only take into account direct money flows, not indirect investment, and thus in no way reflect the real engagement of German companies.

Indo-German development cooperation

Germany’s development cooperation with India is a major component of its foreign policy relations. India is a country of extreme economic and social disparities: on the one hand it is an up-and-coming threshold country with a growing middle class, and on the other there are still more than 800 million people there living on less than two dollars a day. The country’s rapid economic development in the past decades, along with a process of industrialisation and urbanisation, has caused serious environmental damage: India is now the world’s third largest emitter of climate-damaging gases. The exploitation of natural resources – and thus the pressure on resources – is enormous in India.

In its efforts to make German development cooperation as efficient as possible, the Federal Government has agreed with the Indian government to concentrate its work on the following sectors:

  • energy supply, energy efficiency, renewables and access to energy to reduce poverty
  • environmental protection and the conservation of natural resources: adapting to climate change, biodiversity, industrial and urban environmental protection
  • sustainable economic development (including developing the financial sector and social security): social security systems, (rural) financial system development, promoting the private sector and employment

Germany’s innovative approach to development cooperation consists essentially in identifying and offering proven concepts and strategies and contributing to a greater understanding of the need for environmental and climate protection and stability.

Germany’s development cooperation measures are implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the KfW Development Bank (KfW Bank Group) on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Since development cooperation with India cannot be divorced from economic and political developments in the country, many projects are carried out in close cooperation with business associations (chambers of commerce) and small and medium-sized businesses’ self-help organisations. The public-private partnerships (PPPs) instigated in 2009 between private-sector companies and official development actors are making a positive contribution to German development cooperation.

Development policy dialogue at government level takes place at the annual intergovernmental consultations and negotiations on development policy. German spending on development cooperation with India reached an all-time high in 2013 with new commitments worth EUR 1.08935 billion.

Cultural exchange

Indo-German cultural exchange is based on a cultural agreement that came into force in September 1969. Indo-German cultural consultations (held most recently in October 2005) designate specific areas for project work and exchanges in culture and education.

There are six branches of the Goethe Institute (GI) in India. They are called Max Mueller Bhavans after the founder of Indian studies, Max Mueller (1823-1900). The institutes conduct language and programme work and offer information services in New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune. Besides the organisation of cultural programmes, the main focus is on language work. Each year, some 15,000 people currently attend the German courses offered by the Max Mueller Bhavans.

The network of institutes is complemented by five Goethe Centres – in Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Hyderabad and Trivandrum – at which some 3,000 people learn German every year.

As part of the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH), the Goethe Institute and the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) has succeeded in getting 56 Indian partner schools to introduce German as a foreign language. There are an estimated 12,000 students learning German at these schools. In September 2011, the GI signed a memorandum of understanding on the training of German teachers with the national chain of schools operated by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, undertaking to support the introduction of German as a subject at all of its more than 1,000 schools. German is already taught at some 500 schools, with 79,000 students attending German classes.

To meet the demand for German instruction in India, both sides are working together to introduce degree programmes (Bachelor of Education) for German teachers in India.

An Indian cultural centre (Tagore Centre) is located at the Indian Embassy in Berlin.

The branch office of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in New Delhi supports bilateral university and research cooperation programmes and provides scholarship programmes and student advice. The DAAD offers all its regular support programmes in India as well as a number of special India-specific programmes, some of them co-funded. In the 2013/14 winter semester, there were some 9,600 Indian students at German universities, an increase of nearly 28 per cent over the previous year. The number of German students at Indian universities is estimated at around 1,000.

There are currently five academic teachers working in India (four German teachers and one specialist language teacher) as well as five language assistants for German as a foreign language.

The University of Heidelberg’s South Asia Institute has had a local office in New Delhi since 1962. It plays an important role as an interface for Indian studies experts from German and Indian research institutions.

There is a recognised German Overseas School in New Delhi offering instruction up to 12th grade (German International Abitur Examination).

In May 2011, Federal Chancellor Merkel officially opened the German Year in India in New Delhi. Under the overall motto “StadtRäume–CitySpaces”, Germany presented itself as India’s partner for the future in a total of five Indian metropolises with a wide-ranging programme of cultural events and presentations by the business, science and research communities.

A Year of Germany in India was held in 2011 and 2012. A follow-up event, held this time in Germany, was officially entitled “Days of India in Germany 2012-2013 – Connecting Cultures”.

On 7 September 2013, the German Embassy hosted a special event in Srinagar, Kashmir: a concert of classical music by the Bavarian State Orchestra conducted by Maestro Zubin Mehta, which met with a wide response in the Indian public.

As part of the Federal Foreign Office’s Cultural Preservation Programme, Germany’s foreign missions in India are helping to restore India’s cultural heritage. In recent years, restoration work on the Mughal-era Chausath Khamba mausoleum in New Delhi and on the Tsuklakhang Temple in Sikkim has been supported.

Scientific and technological cooperation

Scientific and technological cooperation with India dates back to the late 1950s and is based in part on two intergovernmental agreements, signed in 1971 and 1974. Indian science (particularly space research, IT and biotechnology) enjoys an excellent reputation in Germany, and vice versa. Since the 1990s, there have been regular meetings at state secretary level, at which important projects and cooperation priorities are discussed. The next meeting is scheduled for November 2014 in New Delhi.

The German House of Research and Innovation (DWIH) was officially opened in New Delhi on 27 October 2012. The idea of bringing together 15 German scientific and research institutions under one roof is designed to make it easier for Indian and German scientists, researchers and students to establish contacts with one another. The Federal Foreign Office’s decision to set up one of only six German Houses of Research and Innovation /German Science Centres (DWIH/DWZ) worldwide in Delhi underlines the great importance accorded to India as a science and research partner. With its 15 consortium members, the DWIH in New Delhi is the largest of the six Houses.

A highlight in the DWIH’s activities so far was the Excellence on Tour Road Show, which made stops in in Hyderabad (April/May 2013), Ahmedabad (November 2013) and Kolkata (March 2014). With more than 20,000 visitors, the Road Show has not only had the desired broad impact but has also promoted exchange within the consortium.

India’s importance as a cooperation partner in the scientific sector is also reflected in the high-level visits between the two countries. The first Indo-German intergovernmental consultations, which were held on 31 May 2011 and co-chaired by Federal Chancellor Merkel and then Prime Minister Singh, produced nine of the eleven bilateral agreements on education and research. The focus here was on bilateral research cooperation in biotechnology, the environment, materials sciences and vocational training. At the second Indo-German intergovernmental consultations on 11 April 2013, a declaration of intent to build strategic university partnerships was signed along with agreements between individual universities and research institutes.

Germany’s only bilateral research promotion centre worldwide is in India. The Indo-German Science and Technology Centre (IGSTC) in Gurgaon near New Delhi is being co-funded by Germany and India from 2008 to 2017, each country contributing an annual EUR 2 million. Officially launched during then Federal Research Minister Schavan’s visit to India in September 2008, it promotes bilateral application-oriented research projects involving industrial partners from both countries. The IGSTC organised nine international workshops in the first quarter of 2014 alone.

India has a major stake in several large research institutions in Germany. India has contributed some EUR 30 million to the multinational FAIR particle accelerator in Darmstadt and has also invested substantial sums in licences for use of the DESY particle accelerator in Hamburg.

Germany is India’s second most important research partner worldwide, after the United States. This fact is reflected in the large number of joint Indo-German scientific publications.

The more than 1,000 Indian postgraduate students in Germany constitute the second largest group of foreign PhD students after the Chinese. To further step up academic exchange between Germany and India, then Federal Research Minister Schavan launched the scholarship programme entitled A New Passage to India during her visit to India in 2008. Worth an annual EUR 4.3 million, the programme, which is being implemented by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), is specifically designed to strengthen young German scientists’ India competence.

The Max Planck Society’s cooperation with India, based on an agreement with India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), is gaining considerable momentum. In 2013, there were more than 730 research stays by Indian scientists at Max Planck institutes, an increase of 40 per cent over the past seven years. With 120 participants, Indians made up the largest foreign group at the International Max Planck Research Schools in 2011. The Max Planck Society operates two joint research centres: the Indo-German Max Planck Center for Computer Science (IMPECS) at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi and the Indo-German Max Planck Center on Lipid Research at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore.

In terms of Alexander von Humboldt Foundation scholarship programmes and prizes awarded to foreign researchers, India ranks among the leading countries, after the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Italy and France.

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has had its own offices in New Delhi and Hyderabad since 2006. As part of research cooperation between the DFG and the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), some 490 Indian researchers have so far spent time in Germany.

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft opened a permanent office in Bangalore in November 2012.

Environmental relations

India faces huge challenges in terms of urban and industrial environmental protection. Long-term, sustainable protection of soil, water and air and preserving biodiversity are issues of global importance. India and Germany are working together to attain internationally agreed environmental goals.

To meet these urgent environmental challenges, Germany is seeking to step up political dialogue with India. In November 2008, then Federal Environment Minister Gabriel and his Indian counterpart opened the first Indo-German Environment Forum in New Delhi. A follow-up event is tentatively planned for 2014.  

German development cooperation with India has traditionally focused on environmental and climate protection. Climate protection measures centre on projects to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Cooperation on environmental protection includes waste management and sanitation measures in major urban areas.

A photovoltaic power plant built with German assistance in the Indian state of Maharashtra was officially opened in March 2013. With a capacity of 125 megawatts, it is currently the largest plant of its kind worldwide. The investment costs total approximately EUR 350 million, the German side contributing EUR 250 million in the form of a KfW Development Bank low-interest loan.

At the most recent round of intergovernmental negotiations on development cooperation in Delhi in 2013, joint projects in India worth EUR 1 billion were approved. A large portion of the funding is to be used for projects in the environmental and renewable-energy sectors. A special priority area of German development cooperation are the so-called Green Energy Corridors that are helping to increase the share of renewables in the national energy mix. The first commitment is intended to enable India’s power grid to be adapted so as to allow the efficient integration of renewable energy sources in existing transmission networks.

Projects in India are also being supported as part of the Federal Government’s International Climate Initiative, which was launched in 2008. The main focus of these projects is also on renewable energy and biodiversity. The required funding comes from the auctioning of emission certificates in Germany.

In March 2009, India was the first major threshold country to join the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). In addition to its IRENA membership, India is a founding member of the Renewables Club, which was launched in June 2013 in Berlin.

Development cooperation

India is a partner country of German development cooperation. For more information please visit the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

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