New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be focussing on giving a major push to trade, defence, security and energy ties between India and Europe during his visit to Germany, Denmark and France starting Monday.
Modi’s first visit abroad in 2022 comes at a time when Europe is facing unprecedented security challenges in the wake of the raging Russia-Ukraine war that has altered Brussels’ relationship with Moscow.
For Modi, this trip will be challenging because of India’s position in not calling out Russia openly for its invasion of Ukraine while insisting on dialogue and diplomacy even as New Delhi continues to do business with Moscow on arms and oil.
“In so far as India’s position on Ukraine is concerned, it has been amplified, made clear, enunciated in great detail in multiple fora … We have always maintained that there should be a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, and the path to the resolution goes through diplomacy and dialogue,” Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said at a media conference on Sunday.
In Germany, Modi will be holding his first bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. He will be accompanied by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science and Technology Jitendra Singh.
Both sides will hold the sixth Indo-German Inter-Governmental Consultations, a unique format established between the two where meetings take place not just between leaders but also at the cabinet level.
Both sides will also focus on the growing strategic relationship between India and Germany under the Indo-Pacific framework as the Scholz government begins to review its ties with China.
Earlier this week, Scholz went on his first visit to Asia where his first stop was Japan while he avoided visiting China. While in Tokyo last month, he told Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio about intensifying Germany and the European Union’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific in a clear message to Beijing.
According to Kwatra, the PM’s visit will “shape and develop” the relationship between India and Germany. He said energy security will also be on the agenda during the trip.
Kwatra said energy security will also be on the agenda during the trip.
“Energy security, the changing elements of energy security, challenges in this space and mitigation of these challenges, the solution we could find, naturally are some of the key elements… This would constitute one of the elements in the overall discussions,” Kwatra said.
“For Germany, India is a key strategic partner – together we want to lead on technology, boost trade and investment and stimulate green and sustainable development. We want to strengthen the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific and tackle pressing global challenges, such as climate change, transition to renewable energy, scientific and economic cooperation, migration, mobility, and health. In a world of turmoil and crisis, it is important to strengthen ties between friends and democratic nations, and exchange views on regional and global matters,” said Walter Lindner, German Ambassador to India and Bhutan.
Defence and trade will be a major focus
According to the Foreign Secretary, defence cooperation and trade will also be of major focus, especially during Modi’s visit to Denmark and France.
In France, Modi will be meeting French President Emmanuel Macron. Modi is going to be one of the first few foreign leaders to meet President Macron since he got re-elected last month.
According to Kwatra, the discussions on defence and security with France and Germany are “important elements” as they are “process-based”.
“Defence figures importantly in our priorities… We are looking at it from co-development, co-production, co-manufacturing,” he added.
The long-pending India-EU free trade agreement (FTA), the official negotiations for which were launched in 2007, will also be taken up during this trip and the negotiations are expected to be re-launched following Modi’s visit.
(Edited by: Manoj Ramachandran)