New Delhi: Trade relations between Berlin and Beijing remain strong but China remains a “systemic rival” in the international rules-based system and thus Germany will continue to seek a rules-based global order, German Ambassador to India Walter J. Linder has said.
As Berlin gears up to roll out its vision of the Indo-Pacific policy, sending out a strong signal to China, the German warship Bayern docked at the Mumbai Port Friday in a rare visit to India.
“For Germany, as well as for the EU, China is a key partner in certain aspects. The trade relations have been and continue to remain strong. Also, you need China on board to tackle some of the most pressing global challenges, like climate change. But, no doubt, China is also an economic competitor and importantly a systemic rival in the international rules-based system,” Lindner told ThePrint in an exclusive interview.
“We have considerable differences, in values as well as in interests,” Lindner said. “It is clear that we will speak up when freedom of navigation and this rules-based system is questioned or put to the test. Countries should not place the law of power over the power of law.”
Speaking about the Bayern port call in Mumbai, Lindner said it shows “Germany’s strong connection to India and the growing significance of the Indo-Pacific region, politically and economically”.
“Germany and India both are trading nations and generate a big part of their GNP (gross national product) through trade. Free trade, based on open sea routes and respect and advocacy for a rules-based international order, creates lots of jobs. That’s why Germany has vested maritime interests that we share with India,” Lindner said.
According to the ambassador, “the signal is clear” with such a move.
“Disputes must be solved peacefully and based on international law. We will not remain silent if this rules-based order is challenged. We share this conviction with many powerful partners in the region — with India as our strategic partner and democratic friend, but also with many other countries like Japan and Australia, where the Bayern also undertook port calls during the last six months on its journey,” he said.
The Brandenburg-class frigate, which began its voyage in August 2021, sailed through the South China Sea before reaching India. It also took part in monitoring the UN Security Council’s sanctions against North Korea.
Bayern is on a patrol and training mission, and will return to Germany in February. India is its last stop.
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‘More than a routine visit’
According to Lindner, the dropping of anchor by the Bayern in Mumbai is “certainly more than a routine visit”.
“There are regular consultations among members of the military of India and Germany. Also, Germany is participating in several military exercises in the region, bilateral but also multilateral. The two passing exercises with India, one in August and one scheduled for the coming days, are a strong case in point,” he said.
“The military cooperation between India and Germany is strong and growing. Security in the region is key for the prosperity of all, in India and Germany but also in the Indo-Pacific and the European Union,” he added.
India-EU trade deal will ‘benefit’
The German envoy believes that as two key trading partners, New Delhi and Berlin should seek to make progress in the negotiations for having the long-pending free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the European Union (EU).
“India and Germany go hand in hand when it comes to the guiding principles of our foreign policy — resolve conflicts peacefully and seek open and free trade. That’s also why we hope for progress in the free-trade negotiations between the EU and India in the coming months,” he said.
“If we succeed, we would make a strong case against protectionism and for trade that benefits the biggest number of people,” Lindner added.
Concluding the FTA, talks for which began in 2007, also supports India’s SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) strategy by way of better connectivity and inclusive growth, he said.
“Investment of course is equally important. Beyond our strong bilateral economic ties, the new ‘Global Gateway’ Program of the EU offers many new investment opportunities that are fair and transparent,” he stressed.
India and Germany are going to have the next round of inter-governmental consultations in the next six months, Lindner said.
This will be the first round of inter-governmental consultations between the two countries under new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who took over from Angela Merkel last month.
Earlier this month, Olaf and Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke over the telephone.
“Germany as Europe’s biggest economy and India as Asia’s democratic and economic powerhouse are stronger together… There is plenty of similar strategic thinking when dealing with international challenges — way forward in Afghanistan, cooperation in Africa, anti-piracy, reform of the UN Security Council, just to name a few,” he said.
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