Germany bats for closer ties with India

NEW DELHI : Germany does not view India as a “substitute partner” for China, foreign minister Annalena Baerbock declared on Monday as she batted for deeper ties with India and seemingly distanced herself from Chancellor Scholz on what is turning out to be the prickly issue of Berlin’s relationship with Beijing.

“India is not a “substitute partner” for Germany. It has always been a partner for us and the European Union. It’s a partnership we’re going to deepen further. We are connected to India not only by economic or people to people partnerships but also by a partnership of values,” Baerbock said at a joint press conference with external affairs minister S. Jaishankar.

Baerbock, who has been Germany’s chief diplomat since 2021, then made a thinly veiled reference to China.

“We’ve seen, in a very brutal way, that when we have deep economic ties with partners who are not partners in values, it can have dramatic repercussions on our economies and this is not in our interest,” said the German foreign minister.

The Minister’s tone on China was decidedly hawkish. Referring to Beijing as a “systemic rival”, Baerbock made it clear that Germany’s policy would be more muscular and competitive.

“China has changed very much over the last few years and the whole region can see this. Therefore, the exchange with actors from the region is very important to us, especially with India, which is a direct neighbour,” Baerbock added.

Berlin, she said, would pursue an Indo-Pacific strategy that focused on deepening cooperation with partners like India and Japan while cutting dependence on China.

“There is huge potential for cooperation with India not only on the economic side but also on the security situation.”

The visiting minister indicated that her country was willing to walk the talk on reinforcing a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific.

“With the visit of the frigate Bayern to Mumbai at the beginning of the year, we have shown that we will underpin our (Indo-Pacific) guidelines with concrete action. In the future, we want to further intensify German-Indian cooperation in the field of security policy,” Baerbock added.

Germany would also look to engage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, Baerbock announced.

The German foreign minister’s comments sit somewhat awkwardly with the more conciliatory position towards China taken by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The Germany leader recently visited China where he met with President Xi Jinping.

Scholz’s travel companions were a high-powered group of businessmen from Germany’s largest corporations.

China has been Germany’s largest economic partner since 2016, with the latter’s firms pouring around 10 billion euros in new investments into the Chinese market in 2022 alone.

Scholz has also controversially approved Chinese investments in Hamburg port, which is Germany’s largest seaport.

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