Traditions (II)

NEW DELHI (Own report) |

NEW DELHI (Own report) The German Federal Chancellor is demanding from India ,,speedier and more efficient public administration". Speaking at the opening of the German/Indian Economic Forum in New Delhi, Gerhard Schroeder stated that India's profitable economic sectors needed to be privatised if small and medium-sized German businesses were to be able to be established more quickly. The fact that the Indian public raised no complaint about the paternalistic stance adopted by their visitor from Berlin is an expression of traditional priorities. Germany is regarded as a steadfast supporter of Indian independence and is welcomed as a counterweight to England. The close network of political relationships was scarcely damaged by the collapse of the Nazi regime.

Germany's present India policy, which Schroeder was in New Delhi to develop, is being served by the Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft (German/Indian Society) in Stuttgart, which has some 4,000 members and runs some 30 branches. It is headed by Hans-Georg Wieck, a former head of Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, who was for many years also Germany's ambassador in New Delhi. A foundation exists to associate the society, in practical terms, with the interests of the German state; its board includes, among others, a representative of the Deichmann family, which amasses a fortune of millions from the production of shoes in India, a country where wages are low. Heinz-Horst Deichmann, a Christian of fundamentalist leanings, also holds the office of Honorary Consul for Germany. The society itself stresses the ,,increasing support"given to it by the German government since its re-establishment in 1953.

Information Bureau

The Stuttgart-based society's function as a front for political work continues traditions that can be traced back to 1915, when the German Foreign Office was behind the establishment of an ,,India Committee"on whose help several anti-British rebel movements relied. 1)The uprisings of 1915 failed. After the end of the First World War, the Indian National Congress was allowed to open an ,,Information Bureau" 2)in Berlin, which had to be closed for a time in response to British protests. A.C.N. Nambiar was appointed the bureau's first head. The unchanging objective of its cooperation with the German Foreign Office was the weakening of British influence in the Middle and Far East, an enterprise in which German espionage abroad played a vital part.

Allies

Berlin's anti-British subversive activities were stepped up during the Second World War, when representatives of the Indian independence movement were recruited to serve the interests of the Nazi state, one of them being Subhas Chandra Bose. Together with several Nazi experts who went on to be academics specialising in India in the later Federal Republic 3), Bose worked for the Foreign Office's ,,Sonderabteilung Indien"(Special Department for India), whose diversionary activities included the founding of the Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft in 1942. Germany's India policy acquired military strength in the shape of the ,,Indian Legion", with some 3,000 soldiers recruited from among prisoners of war, which supported the Wehrmacht, fighting against the British, Americans and Canadians on the Western Front. Rather than return home after the war and face trial for high treason, many of the Legion's soldiers were recruited for operational tasks in the service of Germany's new India policy, so that both sides were guided by traditional plans of action according to which Germany played the part of an anti-colonialist ally.

Making the connection

Having been re-established, the Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft became the partly State-run hub of the post-war West Germany's relations with New Delhi. As the organisation itself concedes today, ,,links established between Germans and Indians during the War made the foundation of the Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft possible". 4)Such a description refers to personal and ongoing connections which can be traced back to the Nazi state's Foreign Office and to members of the Wehrmacht's Indian Legion. 5)New Delhi drew on these links when A. C. N. Nambiar was appointed as India's First Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany. Nambiar had been prominent in serving the Nazi regime as a collaborator.

Revisionism

In India, the role of the collaborators with the Nazis is the subject of continuing re-evaluation, to which numerous memorials testify. In Germany, too, historical revisionism has got to work on what Indians did for the Nazis' regime. The daughter of Subhas Chandra Bose, the public face of the Nazis' ,,Special Department for India"and founding father of the Wehrmacht's Indian Legion, lives in Germany and asserts that her father was ,,not a Fascist". 6)The editors have learned that the Land of Baden-Wuerttemberg is planning to publish material on the Indian Legion.

Now that the political talks in New Delhi are over, several Indian foreign policy experts have confidently stated that they seek to underpin the alliance between India and Germany in the UN. What this amounts to is that India will make its admission to the United Nations Security Council conditional upon Germany being admitted at the same time.

1) Johannes H. Voigt: Indien im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Stuttgart 1978, p. 17f
2) see also German Chechens
3) Walther Schubring, Ludwig Alsdorf, Paul Thieme
4) Festschrift zum 50-jaehrigen Bestehen der Deutsch-Indischen Gesellschaft 1953-2003; www.dig-ev.de
5) Wilhelm Lutz, Adalbert Seifriz et al.
6) Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose - ,,Jai Hind!"; www.indien-netzwerk.de