Anti-China Cooperation

NEW DELHI/BERLIN | | indien

NEW DELHI/BERLIN (Own report) - With his visit to India, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is seeking to strengthen German relations with a potential rival of China. He arrived Saturday in New Delhi to intensify economic and political cooperation. In view of the persisting Euro crisis and the decline of business transactions with Russia, Germany is seeking to find alternative export opportunities for its companies. Berlin is also seeking close cooperation in the fields of foreign and military policy to support an integration of India into the Western alliance. India's new President Narenda Modi, who has been strongly criticized because of his party's anti-Muslim slander and his role in the 2002 pogroms, is currently intensifying cooperation in foreign and military policy with Japan and Australia, two central Western allies of the Pacific Basin. Australia is moving closer to NATO and Japan is intensifying the conflict with the People's Republic of China.

"At Least Indirectly Encouraged"

This is Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's first visit to India since New Delhi's recent change of government. The new Prime Minister Narenda Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seen as Hindu nationalist and Modi, himself, is highly controversial because of his party's anti-Muslim positions, but particularly because of his own role in the pogroms of 2002. The pogroms had been sparked when nearly 60 Hindu pilgrims were burned alive on a train. One thousand people were killed and tens of thousands were forced to flee during acts of vengeance on the Muslim minority, which had been blamed for arson on the train. According to experts, the government of the Indian state of Gujarat, of which Modi, at the time, was chief minister, "had at least indirectly encouraged" these pogroms, "even though Modi's direct participation could not be proven in court."[1] There are reports of a revival of anti-Muslim agitation, since the BJP took control of the government. Following the 2002 pogroms, Modi was banned from entering the USA and EU countries.

Generously

In cases such as these, Berlin would have easily applied pressure, in one way or another, on an insubordinate country. However, seeking, for economic and geopolitical reasons, to politically bind India more closely to Germany and the EU, Berlin is generously turning a blind eye on these problems relating to India.

Not Yet Saturated

Economically, the German government is currently seeking new markets for Germany's export economy. This is in spite of yesterday's announcement of its export record last July. Germany exported more than 100 billion Euros worth of goods during that one month. However, this record stands on shaky ground. The Euro crisis is still smoldering.[2] Trade with Russia is seriously declining.[3] Although during the first semester of 2014, China again has increased its German imports by eleven percent, the near stagnation in German-Chinese trade that had set in last year, has made it clear that the People's Republic of China will not necessarily continue increasing its volume of German imports. India, on the other hand, is considered to have a hardly saturated market. With a population of 1.2 billion, India imported a mere 4.15 billion Euros worth of German goods in the first semester of 2014 - not even one-eighth of China's German imports. Business circles predict that a strong growth of the Indian middle class can be expected over the next ten years, and with it, a correlating growth of private consumption.[4] Therefore, from Berlin's perspective, there is potential for growth in exports.

Eurofighter for India

Yesterday, Foreign Minister Steinmeier was not only seeking to increase German exports, in general, he was interested in landing a particular contract: supplying fighter planes to India. Years ago, New Delhi had expressed its wish to buy 126 combat planes. The German government has been strongly campaigning for the Eurofighter, produced by a consortium with German, British, Italian and Spanish participation. However, in 2012 the Indian government chose the French-produced Rafale. Now, the new Narendra Modi government is considering a revision of that decision. If the Indian government should change its mind, this would be a serious setback for heavily crisis-stricken France, with a loss of around eight billion Euros or even more, and contribute further to the redistribution of economic clout and prosperity within the EU.[5] Back in June, soon after the Modi government came into office, German government representatives were on hand in New Delhi. They reopened discussions about the Eurofighter, considerably underbidding the Rafale. "We believe that the Eurofighter consortium has made a good offer and we support it," says Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in an interview to the Indian journal, "The Hindu."[6]

Coveted Partner

Currently, geopolitical interests, rather than business, are weighing heavier in the balance. That gigantic country, India, has an enormous power potential - with a growing population, at the moment at 1.2 billion, an economic growth that by 2050 could elevate it to the world's third largest national economy, after China and the USA, and it possesses nuclear weapons. Strategically, India is considered a potential rival to China, which makes it a coveted partner for the West. At present, India is pursuing an independent course in global policy. It cooperates with China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa within the framework of the "BRICS" nations, which recently founded a "development bank" and their own monetary fund, which rival the western-dominated institutions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Specialists point out that growing economic dependence on the People's Republic of China and the persisting border conflicts could create tensions that the West could exploit to pull New Delhi further into its camp.

Politically Western

Today, some observers consider it very significant that Prime Minister Modi will possibly play a more active, more aggressive foreign policy role than his predecessor. His first foreign visits; in any case, point in this direction. Last week, Modi held in depth talks with the heads of states of Japan and Australia. In Tokyo, he reached agreements on a closer foreign and security policy cooperation, including regular meetings at the vice foreign minister and vice defense minister level, as well as joint naval maneuvers deemed at the control of the maritime routes. Japan has recently taken a strong stand in opposition to China. Shortly following Australia's Prime Minister, Tony Abbott's visit to New Delhi, Indian-Australian naval maneuvers were agreed upon. Both countries have "shared interests in continued U.S. engagement in the region" wrote Abbott in his signed article in the journal "The Hindu."[7] Last week at the NATO summit meeting, Australia strengthened its ties to that alliance. The Australian political establishment is currently discussing joining that war alliance. With the expansion of its relations to Japan and Australia, India is drawing closer to the western system of alliances - even militarily.

Making Alliances

India's relations to Germany are also on issues of foreign and security policy. Foreign Minister Steinmeier has flown to New Delhi to groom these relations, which Berlin has been seeking to intensify for years. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[8]) "Both sides" are "keen to intensify their security policy dialogue and exchange of views," according to a "Joint Statement on the Further Development of the Strategic and Global Partnership between Germany and India," signed in April 2013 at the German-Indian government consultations in Berlin. "Both sides" expressed "their keenness" to "enhance cooperation in the defence sector through dialogue and exchanges on matters of mutual interest, including in the area of defence technology collaboration."[9] Berlin's alliance policy, in reference to future conflicts in East and Southeast Asia, is progressing slowly but steadily.

[1] Joachim Betz, Sandra Destradi, Daniel Neff: Wahlen in Indien 2014: Mandat für den Wandel. GIGA Focus Asien Nr. 6/2014.
[2] See Under the German Whip (II).
[3] See The Alliance of the Threatened.
[4] Indiens aufstrebende Mittelschicht. www.gtai.de 27.02.2014.
[5] Kommt Megadeal mit Indien jetzt doch? www.tagesschau.de 08.09.2014.
[6] "Germany, India Strategic Partners with Excellent Economic Relations". The Hindu 07.09.2014.
[7] Tony Abbott: India and Australia: Ties that bind. www.thehindu.com 05.09.2014.
[8] See Am Indischen Ozean, China's Rival and Anti-China Offensives (I).
[9] Gemeinsame Erklärung zur Weiterentwicklung der strategischen und globalen Partnerschaft zwischen Deutschland und Indien. Berlin, 11. April 2013.