Berlin accord

The free trade agreement isn't yet done, but India-EU ties are robust

After the tensions between India and Italy over the shooting of two Kerala fishermen, there were concerns that the diplomatic episode might jeopardise India's relations with the EU and that the six-year-old negotiations on the India-EU Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) might flounder. But the mutuality of interests prevailed, tension was defused and the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Germany was unscathed. It became clear that Indo-German ties would not relapse into indifference, as they had before India's economic reforms, after the initial warmth between Nehru and Adenauer.

Democratic concerns and values shared by India and Germany had not been sufficient for a strategic relationship. The Cold War and the perceived Indian partiality towards East Germany had left their scars on ties. Strategic engagement came after the liberalisation of the Indian economy and the discovery by both sides of economic realities and necessities. For an export-oriented Germany, India, as a major emerging economic power, became a land of opportunities. Old cultural and educational linkages helped the process and today, India and Germany have a flourishing bilateral trade (biggest trading partner in the EU and fifth in the world), investments in both directions, cooperation in security and disarmament, counter terrorism and educational exchanges. The solidarity of the G-4, of which both Germany and India are members, as the champion of UN Security Council reform, has remained intact, even if its efforts have not succeeded.

No wonder, then, that Chancellor Angela Merkel defined the relationship as "very deep" and pointed out how India, with more than a billion people, with its need for infrastructure and investment, had provided great opportunities for Germany. Early in her career, as environment minister, she had relied instinctively on the Indian delegation to formulate the Berlin Mandate on climate change in 1995. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in turn, stressed that economic relations have been a defining feature of India-Germany ties. They then proceeded to witness their cabinet colleagues sign a plethora of agreements to enhance cooperation in higher education, promote German as a foreign language in India, strengthen civil security research, agriculture and consumer protection, create quality infrastructure for cooperation in standardisation and establish green energy corridors.

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