New Delhi: German Chancellor Angela Merkel met India’s leadership on 29 October at the start of a state visit aimed at boosting trade and security links between Europe’s largest economy and the Asian giant.
Merkel, who has already visited China and Japan this year, is at the head of a high-powered business delegation hoping to reverse what she described last week as years of German neglect of the subcontinent.
The German chancellor started her official programme on 29 October by flagging off the “Science Express”, a train showcasing Germany’s prowess in bio-technology, information technology, space and pharmaceuticals.
The train will travel across more than a dozen Indian states, and was heralded by Manmohan Singh as a symbol of a new relationship with the “superpower of technology in world.” Merkel said she hoped the project would bring young Indians closer to the world of science and technology.
“There are six billion people in the world today and we need science and technology so that in future all can live without poverty and without destruction in the world,” she said.
Merkel and Singh were scheduled to announce agreements on scientific and defence cooperation and on intellectual property rights after talks on 30 October, officials said.
Merkel was also to meet Sonia Gandhi, the head of the ruling Congress party, later on 30 October, as well as top Indian industrialists -- hoping to push for an increase in bilateral trade. This already increased about 40% last year to 10 billion euros ($14.4 billion), according to Indian data.
Merkel’s trade delegation includes executives from Siemens AG, aeronautical major Bombardier, insurance giant Munich Re and pharmaceutical multinational BASF -- an indication of Germany’s eagerness to move into India’s economy, currently expanding at around 9% a year.
On the diplomatic and security front, Merkel and Singh will also be discussing India’s ties with Pakistan, the war in Afghanistan and global warming, an Indian official said. Berlin is anxious for India and Pakistan to overcome tensions and complete an on-off peace process designed to end six decades of hostility between the neighbours.
In keeping with her reputation for tackling human rights issues, Merkel is due to discuss poverty, inequality and India’s notorious caste system. The chancellor’s advisers have said environment issues would be high on the agenda in talks with Indian leaders, who have signalled the country is not ready to compromise its economic growth by accepting binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna told reporters Monday that political cooperation between the two countries had grown in recent years with convergent views on UN reforms and expansion of the Security Council.