Germany wants to intensify the relationship with India to counter Chinese influence and lessen supply dependencies, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck stressed ahead of his visit to Delhi.
Habeck and Hubertus Heil, his fellow minister in charge of labour, are currently travelling to India ahead of key G20 labour and energy minister meetings hosted by the country.
“China and the USA will continue to be the major heavyweights in trade policy in the future. That is precisely why it is imperative Germany and Europe look for partners,” Habeck told ntv.
“India is a counterweight to China and an important player in the Indo-Pacific,” he added.
In the past, German businesses focused too much on China, Habeck bemoaned.
However, while he acknowledged that changing things would take time, he said it was important to take action towards diversifying new business investments, pointing to IT services, pharmaceuticals and industrial goods as key areas of cooperation with India.
Awareness of lopsided dependencies has grown in Germany since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine laid bare the country’s ill-fated reliance on Russian fossil fuels. India has been an important target of the government’s efforts to diversify trade relations and extend its geopolitical partnerships.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited India in February, while Defence Minister Boris Pistorius did so in June, signing a deal to sell German submarines. Germany has also set a new focus on other BRICS states like Brazil and South Africa.
Beyond trade, Germany is looking to replenish its workforce with foreign workers as it faces a shortage of skilled labour. On his trip, Heil will sign a deal to expand a programme which places nurses from Kerala, an Indian state, with German employers.
However, value conflicts are looming in the shade of trade relations as the new partners do not always see eye to eye with the West on topics from Russia’s war to democracy and the green transition.
“There are values [in India] that don’t match ours,” Habeck admitted as he criticised India’s imports of Russian oil and warned that Europe would only collaborate on sustainable produce.
There is “no conceivable world where one can live according to pure doctrine,” he added.
However, bids to strengthen ties with India have not gone down so well in neighbouring France. A recent visit to the country by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was a guest of honour at France’s traditional Bastille Day was widely criticised.
Various NGOs and politicians from opposition parties raised issues such as human rights abuses, attacks on journalists and the media, growing authoritarianism, the arrest of government critics, repression of Muslim minorities, and restriction on freedom of assembly.
According to the French Human Rights League (LDH), the visit “once again sends out a catastrophic signal in terms of the negation of our democratic values”.
Source : Euractiv