New Delhi: Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that Germany will support India to build a viable energy mix to meet soaring demand even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed the importance of nuclear energy for one of the world’s fastest growing emerging economies.
“It is up to each and every country to decide on the energy mix to supply energy,” Merkel told reporters when asked about India’s ambitions to develop nuclear power against the backdrop of a German decision this week to shut down all its atomic plants by 2022.
The plan, which needs legislative approval, calls for phasing out Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors and expanding the use of renewable resources. The decision was 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 the 11 March earthquake.
Germany would press the issue of nuclear safety, but “for many, many years, we had an energy mix where nuclear power had its share,” Merkel said in a press conference.
She noted the potential for cooperation between India and Germany in renewableenergy including solar photovoltaic units and developing efficient coal-fired power plants.
The policy to build a broad-based energy mix is something “we can support you all along the way,” Merkel added.
In his comments, Singh said India produces only 5,000MW of nuclear power at present, but had plans to increase it to 20,000MW by 2020.
“Thereafter, there are some projections, but no firm decision has been taken. One thing which is quite clear is that if India is to meet its emission targets, then nuclear energy together with maximum emphasis laid on renewable sources is a combination which we need,” Singh said. “We must have the option to use nuclear energy.”
India’s power sector, already struggling to meet demand, faces some difficult years ahead with the electricity requirement expected to soar by 55.5% by the end of the 12th Five-year Plan (2012-17), according to government figures.
Merkel, who arrived early Tuesday, is the latest in a list of Western leaders visiting India accompanied by large trade delegations.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama were among those who visited India last year.
Singh said he had told Merkel during talks that India supported “a strong, prosperous and open Eurozone that contributes fully to the global economic recovery process, in which Germany is playing a pivotal role.”
Bilateral trade at €15.5 billion in 2010-11 was up 18% year-on-year with Singh expressing satisfaction that it was on course to reach €20 billion by 2012.
“India offers a stable and friendly investment climate and a large growing market. I welcome the progress that is being made on the issue of high technology exports from Germany to India. This will benefit both economies,” Singh said.
Ahead of the visit, German ambassador to India Thomas Matussek had said his country would like to see India approve a draft legislation that raises the cap on foreign investment in insurance firms to 49% from 26%.
Merkel identified infrastructure and education as key areas for investment and cooperation. She welcomed India’s decision to shortlist European Aeronautic, Defence and Space Co.’s Eurofighter Typhoon, manufactured by Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK, as one of the two options India is looking at to replenish its ageing fighter squadrons. The approximately $11 billion-deal is one of India’s largest military orders in recent times. The other aircraft in the reckoning is French Dassault Aviation’s Rafale.
“The procurement process is very transparent in India. We are aware that we have a good product and we shall wait and see,” said Merkel when asked if she had discussed the subject with Singh.
India dropped Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Sweden’s Saab AB and Russia’s OAO United Aircraft Corp. last month after technical evaluation.
Singh said India and Germany had discussed the security situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Both agreed that terrorism will have to be fought “on all fronts and not selectively,” he said, with Merkel adding that she and Singh shared similar views on Afghanistan where Germany has deployed some 5,000 troops as part of an international force to defeat a resurgent Taliban.
Merkel, who will be leaving for Singapore early Wednesday, arrived 2 hours later than schedule after Iran briefly refused to allow her plane to cross its airspace on the way to India. Merkel’s aircraft was stranded in Turkish airspace for almost 2 hours before Iran relented, but the incident sparked a diplomatic row.
Later in the evening, Merkel was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. Previous recipients include Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in 1993.
The annual award carries a cash prize of $220,000, according to the ministry of external affairs’ website.