China's Counterpart (II)

German think tanks call for closer cooperation with India - also militarily - targeting China.

BERLIN/NEW DELHI (Own report) - In the run-up to the next EU-India summit, on May 8, influential German think tanks call for Germany and the EU to intensify their cooperation with India, in light of the West's power struggle with China. New Delhi is also taking a stance against Beijing and sees itself as a major Asian counterpart to the People's Republic of China. Border conflicts between the two countries in the Himalayas have recently led to military clashes with casualties on both sides. In its course against China, India can rely on the growing military cooperation with the USA. The influential Bertelsmann Foundation is now recommending that Berlin and the EU step up their military and armament cooperation with New Delhi. Human rights organizations are raising serious accusations against the Indian government, because of its brutal repression of the current farmer protests and also members of the opposition in Kashmir. Kashmiri repressive forces are using assault rifles made by the US affiliate company to Germany's Sig Sauer arms manufacturer.

Border Conflicts

Since the beginning of the year, the influential Bertelsmann Foundation has been assessing options for enhancing German and EU cooperation with India in a series of succinct political analyses - right at a time, when New Delhi is taking an extremely aggressive stance against Beijing. In late 2019, the Indian government had opted for the Chinese Huawei Group - which was under massive attack by the US government - to participate in its 5G-tests. Last year, however, it dramatically toughened its course and launched a series of - partially publicity grabbing - measures against China. For example, it banned a triple-digit amount of Chinese apps, including very popular ones. In the midst of a boycott campaign, it hampered Chinese imports with customs chicanery and intensified its anti-China military cooperation with Japan, Australia and the USA within the framework of the "Quadrilateral Security Dialogue." At the disputed Indo-Chinese border in the Himalayas, clashes erupted in June 2020 and in January 2021 between the troops of both countries resulting, in June 2020, in the deaths of twenty Indian and five Chinese soldiers. The tensions still persist, in spite of all efforts to, at least, dampen the conflict.[1]

Washington's Indo-Pacific Strategy

With China in focus, India, in the meantime, has enhanced its military and armament cooperation with the United States. Since the 1990s, and even more since the George W. Bush presidency, the USA has taken steps to groom India to become China's major Asian counterpart.[2] The signing of an agreement on military cooperation in 2005 was the first significant step. The Trump administration has consistently expanded the collaboration with the Indian armed forces to ensure that, in the future, "a strong Indian military" would be able to "effectively cooperate with the United States and our partners in the region," as was stipulated in Washington's 2018 "Indo Pacific Strategy."[3] India would be particularly supported in its border conflict with China. Since 2018, the defense and foreign affairs ministers of the USA and India have held their so-called "2+2" talks annually. At their latest 2+2 meeting, Washington and New Delhi signed a military agreement that allows India access to various satellite data, considered vital for military operations, such as target detection.[4] New Delhi, however, wants to retain a certain independence for example to procure the S-400 air defense system from its longtime arms supplier Russia.

"Arenas of Cooperation"

Like Washington, Berlin has also attempted to intensify relations with New Delhi over the past two decades, albeit without much success. The amount of German direct investments in India has only reached one-fifth of its investment volume in China. The volume of German-Indian trade is significantly lower than German trade with much smaller South Korea. There is no conclusion in sight of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and India, which Berlin and Brussels, since a year and a half, have been seeking to be able to expand their exports. In October, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) said with resignation that one should leave the FTA negotiations and pragmatically focus on concrete areas of strategic cooperation.[5] the Bertelsmann Foundation arrives at a similar assessment of the situation in its current "Arenas of Cooperation" series of publications.[6] In search of additional fields of cooperation, the foundation recently analyzed cooperation in the health sector, which both sides attempted to intensify during the Covid-19 pandemic, even though the foundation harbors also skepticism in this regard. India, which has a quite successful pharmaceutical industry, seeks to "further strengthen its market power," the foundation concludes, which does not sit well with the EU, fearing "too much dependence."[7]

Arms and Military

The foundation, however, does see military and armament cooperation. "Given the economic and military inferiority to China," India seeks "to massively expand its armaments cooperation with its European partners," according to a current analysis published by Bertelsmann, and, in the future, it will probably express "more frequently" aspirations "to German politicians" to this effect.[8] The foundation also points to the fact that, since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, New Delhi has increased its military budget by 40 percent - more comprehensively than almost any other country. It now has the world's third largest armed forces budget. Based upon the Bilateral Defense Cooperation, signed on February 12, 2019, and within the context of the 5th German-Indian Government Consultations on November 1, 2019, Berlin and New Delhi have agreed to "further deepen bilateral defense cooperation as strategic partners." They planned the facilitation of export of German military equipment, which recently was at around €100 million per year, as well as to conduct "regular Dialogue" between the Defense Ministers of the two countries.[9] The EU also intends to intensify its military cooperation. According to the Joint Statement of the EU-India Summit, 15 July 2020, the focus will be on closer naval cooperation in the Indian Ocean.[10]

Bloody Repression

The fact that human rights organizations are expressing growing criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government, poses no obstacle to the expansion of cooperation with India. Most recently, the arrest of the 22 year-old climate protection activist, Disha Ravi accused of "high treason" had caused a stir worldwide.[11] In addition, the months of brutality against the farmers' mass protests at the hands of India's forces of repression has brought growing criticism. For years, observers have also pointed to the Modi government's fomenting an anti-Muslim pogrom-like atmosphere that has even led to murders of Indian Muslims by Hindus.[12] Following its strong criticism of the government's actions, Amnesty International was forced to suspend its work in India, when the authorities froze the human rights organization's bank accounts.[13] For decades, particularly serious accusations have been raised because of the brutal repression in Kashmir, where, according to a UN report, for example, in 2018 alone, at least 160 civilians had been killed in attacks by police and military.[14] The Modi government, which had revoked Kashmir's autonomy on August 5, 2019 and systematically sealed off the region, continues to use violence against members of the opposition and human rights activists. Complaints include numerous arbitrary arrests and torture.[15]

Sig Sauer Assault Rifles

For its operations in Kashmir, Indian repressive forces can rely on assault rifles produced by Sig Sauer USA, the US affiliate company of the German namesake arms manufacturer in Eckernförde, near Kiel, which ceased production in Germany at the end of last year. According to reports, the first 10,000 of a total of 73,000 SiG 716 assault rifles had been delivered to the Indian Army in Kashmir in the fall 2019.[16] According to reports, in the fall of 2020, another delivery of Sig Sauer USA assault rifles was expected, this time, however, for the troops deployed on the Himalayan border with China.[17]


[1] India-China dispute: The border row explained in 400 words. 25.01.2021.

[2] Robert D. Blackwill, Ashley J. Tellis: The India Dividend. New Delhi Remains Washington's Best Hope in Asia. In: Foreign Affairs September/October 2019. 173-183.

[3] See also Die neue deutsche Kanonenbootpolitik.

[4] US-India 2+2: Crucial defence deal signed. 27.10.2020.

[5] Manisha Reuter: How China could push Europe and India closer together. 12.10.2020.

[6] Parvati Vasanta: Deutschland und Indien: Arenen der Zusammenarbeit. 2. Handel. Bertelsmann Stiftung Policy Brief. Februar 2021.

[7] Parvati Vasanta: Deutschland und Indien: Arenen der Zusammenarbeit. 3. Gesundheit. Bertelsmann Stiftung Policy Brief. Februar 2021.

[8] Parvati Vasanta: Deutschland und Indien: Arenen der Zusammenarbeit. 1. Sicherheit. Bertelsmann Stiftung Policy Brief. Januar 2021.

[9] Gemeinsame Erklärung anlässlich der 5. Deutsch-Indischen Regierungskonsultationen am 1. November 2019 in New Delhi.

[10] Joint Statement - 15th EU-India Summit, 15 July 2020.

[11] Arne Perras: Disha Ravi. 17.02.2021.

[12] India: Vigilante 'Cow Protection' Groups Attack Minorities. 18.02.2019.

[13] Regierung zwingt Amnesty-Sektion zum Stopp ihrer Menschenrechtsarbeit. 29.09.2020.

[14] See also Chinas Gegenspieler.

[15] India: Counter-terror raids on civil society groups signal escalating crackdown on dissent. 29.10.2020.

[16] Indian Army received first batch American assault rifles for operations in Jammu and Kashmir. 11.12.2019.

[17] New lot of American-origin Sig-Sauer assault rifles to be for troops deployed on China border. 06.10.2020.