New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock held a detailed discussion on Pakistan, with New Delhi making its position clear to Berlin that “cross-border terrorism” remains a challenge for ties between the two neighbours.
Baerbock, who is on a two-day maiden visit, said that Germany and India remain “natural partners” and that the relationship is of “friendship” which is not the case with China.
“Regarding Pakistan, I spent some time with the minister outlining the nature of our ties, the challenge of cross-border terrorism and essentially the fact that we engage Pakistan bilaterally on whatever are the outstanding issues but the main challenge today is the fact that we cannot have talks where there is terrorism and I think there was understanding on German side in this regard,” Jaishankar said at a joint press conference with Baerbock.
This comes after Baerbock’s statements turned controversial during her visit to Pakistan in October where she — responding to a question on Jammu and Kashmir — spoke about the UN in resolving the dispute during a joint press conference with Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari Bhutto.
She had also said then that it is imperative for both sides to have a ceasefire in order to stabilise the crisis situation in Afghanistan.
On Monday, Jaishankar said he spoke about the situation in the neighbourhood with his visiting counterpart. “We had a fairly extensive discussions on Afghanistan and Pakistan … In Afghanistan, it was our respective assessments of how the situation there is and the Indian perspective that Germany shares with the UNSC Resolution 2593,” he added.
Baerbock, who will be leaving for Berlin Tuesday, also said that India has taken on the role of G-20 president at a “difficult moment”.
“India is assuming global responsibility in this difficult moment, responsibility for the most urgent tasks of our time … We have a global impact of the brutal war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine, an illegal world that has brought the whole world into a very difficult situation.”
She added that the war has also created difficulties for India in terms of energy and fertiliser supplies.
Nicht nur, weil wir uns in diesem Jahr schon so häufig gesehen haben – die Weltlage macht unsere enge Abstimmung mehr als nötig – fühlt sich mein erster offizieller Besuch in #Indien an wie der Besuch bei Freunden. Vielen Dank dafür, lieber @DrSJaishankar! 1/3 pic.twitter.com/BM8kTNfYGx
— Außenministerin Annalena Baerbock (@ABaerbock) December 5, 2022
India will continue expand biz ties with Russia, says Jaishankar
On the issue of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and the growing differences between Europe and India even as New Delhi-Moscow business ties continue to expand, Jaishankar said the move to grow trade with Russia predates 24 February — the day when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a ‘special military operation’ on Ukraine.
“Our trade with Russia has been quite small … If you compare it with most European countries, most of them have multiple times that trade. It’s (expanding trade) not a discussion that started after 24 February. It’s a discussion that has been going on before,” said Jaishankar.
India and Russia are currently also discussing a list of items that can be traded between both countries in order to expand the two-way trade, he said.
Reiterating PM Narendra Modi’s advice to Putin that “this is not an era of war”, Jaishankar said this was even agreed to by the G20 during the recently concluded summit in Bali.
On energy purchases from Russia, Jaishankar said, between 24 February and 17 November, the EU has “imported more fossil fuel from Russia than the next 10 countries combined”.
The oil import by EU is six times compared to India’s and gas import from Russia stands at $50 billion and coal imports is 50 per cent more than India’s, he asserted.
“There is a finite amount of energy resources available in the world. I understand there is a conflict situation. I also understand Europe has a point of view and Europe will make the choices it will make. That is Europe’s right,” he said.
“But for Europe to make choices which prioritises its energy needs and then ask India to do something else … And bear in mind, today Europe is buying a lot from the Middle East. Now, the Middle East was traditionally a supplier for an economy like India. So, it puts pressure on the prices in the Middle East as well.”
Earlier in Berlin, while departing for India, the German foreign minister had hinted at the fact that India can play the role of a mediator between Russia and Ukraine. “At the G20 summit in Bali, India showed that it is ready to play its role globally. The clearer positioning of the G20 against the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine is ultimately also thanks to India,” she said in her departure statement.
India ‘not a substitute’ for China, says Germany
According to Baerbock, China is seen as “a partner for global challenges, a competitor and a systemic rival” and India is “not a substitute for China” when it comes to political, business and security ties.
She underscored that India has “always been a partner” for Germany and a partner for the European Union that will be further deepened. “With India, we have a partnership of values.”
“China has changed very much over the last few years and I think the whole region can see this and feel this. So the exchange with actors from the region is very important to us, especially India as the direct neighbour. This is very important for us to have a good assessment of the challenges ahead,” said Baerbock.
She stressed Germany will focus more and more on the Indo-Pacific strategy when it comes to dealing with China.
“We will have more diversification in the Indo-Pacific area. There is huge potential for German and European companies,” she said, adding that until now Germany was focussing on China but Berlin has now realised that too much dependence on a country that does not share common values can prove to be counterproductive with “dramatic economic repercussions”.
On Monday, both countries also signed an agreement on Comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership. Under this Germany plans to attract young, talented and highly-skilled individuals from India in order to enhance people-to-people ties.
(Edited by Tony Rai)