Interview with Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on the occasion of his trip to India. Published in the Indian Newspaper The Hindu (07.09.2014).
This is the first real engagement between the new Indian and German governments. Give us a sense as to why the meeting between PM Modi and German top leadership could not take place when he landed in Berlin on his way to BRICS. There are differing reports.
Prime Minister Modi fully understood that the Chancellor was keen to be present in Rio to support the German football team in the World Cup final. The Chancellor’s trip to Rio meant it was not possible to have talks during the Prime Minister’s stopover in Berlin. However, Chancellor Merkel had a very amicable and productive telephone conversation with the Prime Minister on 17 July – her 60th birthday, during which they agreed to meet in person soon. My current three day visit and the large delegation accompanying me also underscore the importance of our relations.
Please tell us what you hope to achieve from your visit to New Delhi, and what are the possibilities of Indo German cooperation with the new NDA government in India?
Germany and India are strategic partners with excellent economic relations and numerous common interests. We want to make good headway until the next intergovernmental consultations next year by tackling and looking closely at a whole host of issues connected to our cooperation. These include our economic relations, as well as issues relating to vocational training and infrastructure projects, renewable energy or the remedying of environmental damage, especially in river basins. Germany has much to offer in these spheres. Furthermore, I am looking forward to experiencing at first hand the mood of economic upswing in your country which I have heard so much about.
There are also reports that Germany has offered better terms to India for the MMRCA fighter aircraft deal, in case the deal for the Rafale aircraft is not completed. How hopeful are you that India will rethink the deal?
We believe that the Eurofighter Typhoon consortium has made a good offer, and we support it. At the same time, however, we respect the Indian Government’s right to make a sovereign decision in this matter.
Apart from bilateral issues, what are the global issues you hope to engage Ms. Swaraj and PM Modi about? In particular, you have just been to Erbil and spoken about German cooperation to the US on a coalition to help arm Kurds and to defeat ISIS …. what kind of role would you like India to play?
Naturally, a strategic partnership requires close coordination in the foreign policy field. During my visit, I will therefore have an exchange with my interlocutors on many different foreign policy issues; these will include lasting peace in Afghanistan, as well as current crises, such as those in Ukraine and Iraq. And, last but not least, our joint efforts to bring about United Nations reform.
Germany has been a key member of ISAF in Afghanistan. As international forces prepare to pull out, how worried are you about the security situation there, and do you think India should accept the Afghan government’s request for more lethal hardware and transport vehicles to assist their army?
The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are already in charge of combat operations across the country. By the end of the year, they will have assumed full responsibility for their country’s security. ANSF have faced challenges, but they have proven they are capable of providing security for the Afghan people, for example by successfully ensuring security during two national elections. After the end of the ISAF mission, a new mission – “Resolute Support” – will provide training, advice and assistance. The ANSF need further support with equipment as well. Afghanistan will continue to need considerable support from the international community for the foreseeable future. It is in our common interest that a new president is appointed and a new government formed as soon as possible and that they cooperate closely with the international community.
Finally, later this month, PM Modi will travel to the UNGA [United Nations General Assembly] for the first time … how confident are you of a UN security council reform that would enable countries like Germany and India to be permanent members? How do you hope to coordinate in this effort?
Security Council reform is indeed an important issue and we are working on it together with India, as well as with our other G4 partners Japan and Brazil. The Security Council no longer reflects today’s geopolitical realities. Without reform, its credibility is in danger of being further eroded. Therefore, we believe that 2015 – 70 years after the founding of the UN and 10 years after the last reform – could be the right time to move forward. Germany, India and their G4 partners, together with other reform minded countries, will continue to push for comprehensive reform. In this regard, I also look forward to our next G4 meeting at ministerial level, scheduled to take place during the General Assembly in September in New York.