New Delhi: Germany has removed India from a list of countries subject to restrictions for the export of dual-use items and technology, adding a new dimension to its strategic partnership with the South Asian nation.
Germany’s ambassador to India Thomas Matussek said the move was in keeping with an understanding reached between the two countries during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Berlin in December.
A week before German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to New Delhi on 31 May, “Germany modified its export control legislations vis-a-vis India”, Matussek told reporters.
“We have repealed our national restrictions for export of goods of nuclear power plants. India was removed from a list of countries subject to national export control restrictions. Now India will be treated by us just like any EU (European Union) country,” he said. The step was in recognition of India’s “excellent non-proliferation record” and added a “new cornerstone to our strong strategic partnership”, the ambassador said.
This follows a decision by Germany to shut down all its atomic plants by 2022, based on the recommendations of an expert commission to review the safety of atomic power plants after some units of Japan’s Fukushima Dai-chi nuclear power plant started leaking radiation after being crippled by a tsunami triggered by a 11 March earthquake. But the move paves the way for German companies such as Siemens AG to export critical and sensitive civil nuclear safety equipment to India, which included nuclear power as a component of its energy mix needed to fuel its economic growth. According to Prime Minister Singh, India currently produces only 5,000 megawatts (MW) of nuclear power but has plans to increase it to 20,000MW by 2020.
Matussek, who was briefing reporters on the outcome of Merkel’s visit, said Germany supported India’s entry into international bodies framing the rules for the trade in nuclear and dual-use equipment and knowhow such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Group and the Australia group. But he urged India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)—an international pact that prohibits member states from testing nuclear weapons. India, which conducted nuclear tests in 1974 and in 1998, has resisted pressure from the international community to sign either the CTBT or the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But the difference of views was not an irritant in India-Germany ties that span education, science and technology to defence and strategic issues, the ambassador indicated.
Matussek, however, urged India not to carry out the death penalty awarded to Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, whom Indian courts found guilty of conspiracy in the 1993 September Delhi bomb blast case that targeted then youth Congress leader Maninder Singh Bitta.
Bhullar was deported from Frankfurt after his application seeking political asylum was rejected by German authorities, but the decision was declared illegal by a Frankfurt court two years later. India’s President Pratibha Patil recently rejected his mercy petition.
“Our government together with the European Union is certainly going to make the appeal not to execute the capital punishment. The EU high representative Catherine Ashton has written to the home minister in this regard,” Matussek said. Germany and many EU countries have abolished the death penalty.
On a proposal to remove the Taliban from a list of groups that are subject to United Nations sanctions following the 2001 attacks in the US, Matussek said the move was aimed at helping the “reconciliation process” between the Afghan government and the rebels.
“We feel that if the Afghans feel that the reconciliation process is easier, then you take the Taliban off the list,” Matussek said. India, which suspects the Taliban of having links with Pakistan military spy agency the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is uncomfortable with the move. India blames the ISI for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and for fomenting insurgency in Kashmir.
Germany’s ambassador to the UN Peter Wittig chairs the Security Council committee that currently monitors sanctions against the groups. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been making peace overtures to members of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan for five years and sheltered the Al Qaeda before being driven out of power in the US-led invasion in late 2001. The Taliban has long demanded removal from the sanctions list to help promote reconciliation. The US and Afghan governments have said they are willing to reconcile with Taliban members who renounce violence, embrace the Afghan constitution, and sever ties with the Al Qaeda.