Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi began a six-day four-nation Europe tour, as he arrived in Germany on Monday. Upon his arrival in Berlin, the PM hinted that the purpose of his visit is to discuss various issues, like trade, co-operation and counter-terrorism, with European leaders.
Foreign policy experts believe that Modi’s ongoing visit will shape the future ties between India and the European Union (EU). Europe has already declared its intention to play an independent role in world affairs (especially after the Brexit). Just a day before her meeting with the Indian premier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that America and Britain were no longer reliable partners for Europe. The chancellor’s statement clearly shows that Europe has no plan to go back to the Atlantic alliance. So, it is the ideal time for India to boost ties with the 28-member European bloc and Prime Minister Modi is ready to grab the opportunity with both hands.
During the recent G7 Summit in Sicily, the German chancellor announced that Europe would no longer be “completely” dependent on the US and try to find out new global partners. In the past, the EU and France expressed similar views, as the European leaders started losing faith in American President Donald Trump’s ability to handle global crises properly. After the disastrous G7 Summit in which President Trump declined to join the others on climate change and denounced Germany for its trade policies, Merkel and her European colleagues decided to throw a few straws in the wind.
Although China (too) is interested in strengthening ties with Europe, Germany and other European countries don’t feel comfortable with the Asian country’s political system that is almost the antithesis of the post-sovereign, liberal democratic order. On the contrary, India’s economic and political characters are much closer to Europe’s. The Indian PM, who is well aware of the fact that the global order undergoes fundamental shifts, is fully prepared to capitalise on the ongoing shifts. With US President Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin working out an America-Russia modus Vivendi, India has decided to fill the vacuum.
Right now, the most important question is: will Chancellor Merkel find a ‘Trump card’ in Prime Minister Modi? As New Delhi-Berlin ties attract attention after Merkel’s recent outburst, the visiting Indian premier stressed on regional and global issues, from climate change to Afghanistan and terrorism, during his meeting with the chancellor on Monday evening. Modi clarified that the South Asian powerhouse would continue on its path towards a cleaner future, regardless of what America does. It was important for the Indian PM to send a strong message to Germany, which received a similar message from China. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is scheduled to arrive in Berlin on Wednesday, hours after Modi’s visit, to work with Germany.
On Indo-German ties, Modi said that India considers Germany as an important partner in the national flagship programmes of ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Start-up India’, ‘Clean India’ and ‘Smart Cities’. Speaking at a joint press conference in the German capital, he stressed: “We are keen to attract German Mittelstand (small and medium enterprises) to partner with us in our ‘Make in India’ programme. We are committed to provide a supportive business ecosystem to those who join us in our growth story.” In the presence of Chancellor Merkel, he informed the local media that India recently “established dedicated platforms to support German companies and investments in India. There is strong commitment from the leadership on both sides to strengthen economic relations. I am very optimistic about this partnership”.
Meanwhile, the Indian PM requested Europe to play a lead role in tackling the menace of terrorism, saying: “Europe has been hit hard by terrorism. To our mind, terrorism is the gravest challenge facing humanity. Europe must play a lead role in developing an effective global response under the aegis of the UN to deal with this menace”.
Modi will also visit Spain, on what will be an Indian PM’s first visit in nearly 30 years; Russia for the annual bilateral summit; and France for his first meeting with newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron.