Interview by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on the occasion of his visit to India for Indo-German Intergovernmental Consultations. Published in “Hindustan Times” on 5 October 2015.
Are Indo-German ties, though economically strong, marked by a lack of stratetig content?
I would not agree with that perception. On the contrary, if you look at the frequency of our bilateral meetings, you will see a different picture. In August, I met my colleague Mrs Sushma Swaraj during her visit to Berlin where we had excellent talks. Also, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Modi are in close communication, most recently at the UN in New York just a couple of days ago. This underlines that Germany and India work together very closely on topics like peace and security, stabilising Afghanistan or reforming the United Nations Security Council. Germany is the only country with which India conducts Intergovernmental Consultations - a comprehensive format of cooperation in various areas of primary strategic significance to both our countries.
There are many examples of Indo‑German cooperation that are of strategic importance to India’s development. Take one of India’s greatest challenges – skill development: Prime Minister Modi called Germany, with its world‑renowned system of vocational training, a natural partner of the Indian “Skill India” programme. India also aims to increase power generation without exacerbating pollution. Germany has proven its competence in the area of environmental technology with its exemplary energy transition. And we offer solutions for state‑of‑the‑art infrastructure and mobility systems ideal for India’s “Smart Cities” programme. All of this is much more than mere economic activity; it is cooperation on a broad scale and with immense depth.
Cumulative Indian investment in Germany, by some measures, exceeds German investment in India ($ 4.1 billion vs $ 3.9 billion). What are the factors for this low level of German investment in the country?
German investments in India have actually crossed the 8 billion USD mark. Almost 1700 German companies are doing business in India and many of them have opened or significantly expanded factories in India. Germany is India’s 6th‑largest trading partner and the most important trading partner within the EU. This is not a static picture: In the first six months of 2015, the volume of trade between Germany and India rose by another five percent.
A survey conducted by the Indo‑German Chamber of Commerce has shown that German companies hold a positive long‑term view of the Indian market. At the same time they see areas of concern regarding the ease of doing business – too much red tape, infrastructure hurdles, corruption, lack of skilled labour, tax disputes. Land acquisition problems as well as tax and customs issues need to be resolved in order to encourage further investment. The introduction of a countrywide Goods and Services Tax would be a big step forward. A reliable legal and administrative framework is indispensable for German companies in India. I believe that Prime Minister Modi’s Government is heading in the right direction.
How severely did New Delhi’s flip‑flop on the teaching of German in Indian schools hurt cultural relations between the two countries?
I’m absolutely convinced that both Indians and Germans will profit if more Indians have German language skills. We respect the decision of the Indian Government to introduce German as an additional language. Since, in a globalised world, it is essential to speak foreign languages, I hope that many more Indians will opt for German as an additional language in the future.
What do you expect from Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Paris climate change summit?
India is a key player in the UNFCCC negotiations: India’s share in global greenhouse gas emissions today is about 5.7 percent and it is bound to further increase considerably in the years to come. At the same time, India is one of the countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The national policies, especially regarding adaptation, are remarkable.
Of course we see the responsibility of industrialised countries to mitigate greenhouse gases and support others in adapting to the effects of climate change. The EU has submitted an ambitious and fair INDC. In addition, Germany has agreed to increase its public climate finance by 100 percent by 2020.
At the same time we need to see that climate change is a global threat that industrialised countries cannot combat alone. All countries, especially major emitters, will have to play their part in this endeavour.