New Delhi: German chancellor Angela Merkel will visit India on Tuesday, ahead of the selection of a new managing director for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), on which both nations have divergent views.
The one-day visit will focus on technology and defence cooperation, Indian economic reforms, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the fallout of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden’s killing in that country this month and pro-democracy protests in West Asia and North Africa, officials said.
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Merkel will be accompanied by five cabinet ministers, German ambassador to India Thomas Matussek said on Friday.
IMF, an inter-governmental organization that oversees the global financial system, is to select a managing director after France’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who faces allegations of sexual misconduct, resigned this month. Germany says another European in the job will help the euro zone tide over a debt crisis, but India wants the position to go to someone from an emerging economy.
“It is a one-day visit but it is significant,” India’s former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh said. “Chancellor Merkel will be coming to India fresh from the G-8 (group of eight industrialized nations meet) in Deauville in France, where the focus has been on the international economic situation, reform of institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the choice of a new IMF chief, expansion of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the global geopolitical situation.”
Merkel and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will discuss India’s plans to buy 126 fighter aircraft, Matussek said.
India last month shortlisted two European manufacturers—France’s Dassault and the pan-European EADS—for the nearly $11 billion deal. German firms are a part of EADS.
Matussek said EADS’s Eurofighter Typhoon, which is in contention for the deal, is a “most modern aircraft” and EADS will be open to sharing technology, besides developing second and third-generation aircraft.
Germany is keen to see more economic reforms in India, he added. Bilateral trade stood at €15.5 billion in fiscal 2011, up 18% from a year earlier; a survey of 175 German firms by the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce (IGCC) showed they were keen to bolster ties with Indian businesses, Matussek said.
Eight out of 10 managers said in the survey they expect India’s growth rate to match or outstrip China’s in a decade, although many also listed poor infrastructure and corruption as concerns.
“German investors affirm greater faith than ever in the fundamentals of India’s growth story,” Bernhard Steinruecke, head of IGCC, said in a statement.
The dialogue will mark a milestone in strategic ties between India and Germany as it is being elevated to the level of “inter-governmental consultations”, which Germany only holds with select European countries, the US and Israel, Matussek said.
The two countries share similar views on how to proceed in war-ravaged Afghanistan, where Germany has 5,000 soldiers on the ground.
Matussek said Germany appreciates India’s aid for Afghanistan’s reconstruction. “We believe we need to stay engaged for the long haul,” said the ambassador, echoing India’s viewpoint that a pullout of international troops before stabilizing the country could bring the Taliban, its erstwhile rulers who are supported by Pakistan, back.
Germany and India are also on the same page regarding Pakistan and its support to terror groups, Matussek said, demanding that “after the US operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan must answer questions about the support network of bin Laden”.
US troops killed Osama, the leader of terror group Al Qaeda, in Abbottabad near Pakistani capital Islamabad, on 2 May.
“After the US operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan must answer questions about the support network of Osama bin Laden. It is important the Pakistan government comes clean on the possible role of the Pakistani army and the Pakistani security service in supporting Osama bin Laden and other terror outfits,” Matussek said.
India has often called Pakistan a haven for terrorist outfits.
The ambassador said Germany “will consider India’s request for support” to join international nuclear non-proliferation regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Both nations are also contenders for new permanent seats on the UNSC, which currently has five permanent members and 10 non-permanent members but is facing calls for reform.