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Berlin does not view India as a “substitute partner" for China, said Foreign minister Annalina Baerbock during her 2-day visit to India. Speaking at a joint press conference with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in New Delhi, Baerbock batted for deeper ties with India. 

“India is not a “substitute partner" for Germany. It has always been a partner for us and the European Union. It’s a partnership we’re going to deepen further. We are connected to India not only by economic or people to people partnerships but also by a partnership of values," said Baerbock, who has been Germany’s chief diplomat since 2021. 

Minister Baerbock then made a thinly veiled reference to China. 

“We’ve seen, in a very brutal way, that when we have deep economic ties with partners who are not partners in values, it can have dramatic repercussions on our economies and this is not in our interest," said the German Foreign Minister. 

The Minister’s tone on China remained decidedly hawkish. Referring to Beijing as a “systemic rival", Baerbock made clear that Germany’s policy would be more muscular and competitive. 

“China has changed very much over the last few years and the whole region can see this. Therefore, the exchange with actors from the region is very important to us, especially with India, which is a direct neighbour (of China)," Baerbock added. 

Berlin, she continued, would pursue an Indo-Pacific strategy that focused on deepening cooperation with partners like India and Japan while cutting dependence on China. 

“There is huge potential for cooperation with India not only on the economic side but also on the security situation," the German Minister stated. 

The Minister indicated that her country was willing to walk the talk on reinforcing a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific. 

“With the visit of the frigate Bayern to Mumbai at the beginning of the year, we have shown that we will underpin our (Indo-Pacific) guidelines with concrete action. In the future, we want to further intensify German-Indian cooperation in the field of security policy," Baerbock went on to say. 

Germany would also look to engage with Prime Minister Modi’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, Minister Baerbock announced. 

The German Foreign Minister’s comments sit somewhat awkwardly with the more conciliatory position towards China taken by Chancellor Olaf Scholz. 

Germany’s leader recently visited China where he met with President Xi Jinping. Scholz’s travel companions were a high-powered group of businessmen from Germany’s largest corporations. China has been Germany’s largest economic partner since 2016, with the latter’s firms pouring around 10 billion euros in new investments into the Chinese market in 2022 alone. 

Scholz also controversially approved Chinese investments in Hamburg port, which is Germany’s largest seaport. The deal was pushed through by the Chancellor despite concerns from numerous ministries about the national security risks posed by the deal. 

The clear gap between Scholz’s actions and Baerbock’s statements seem to signal a divide over China in the coalition government that replaced Angela Merkel in December 2021. Scholz, belongs to the traditional centre-left Social Democratic Party while Baerbock belongs to the Alliance 90/The Green Party, another part on the left of the political spectrum.

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