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Chancellor Merkel being received by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
© BPA, Steffen Kugler
Chancellor Merkel on a state visit

May 29, 2008

by Philipp Ackermann

German Chancellor Angela Merkel came on a state visit to India in October 2007. She was accompanied by the German Minister for Education and Research and a 160-member delegation.

When heads of State and Government travel, it is always an impressive enterprise. Certainly not what one would call “light travelling”… But even compared to the usual standards, Angela Merkel’s trip to India stood out. She arrived at Delhi’s Palam Airport with a large delegation of more than 160 people in two planes on the evening of 29 October. Mrs Merkel was accompanied by German Minister for Education and Research Annette Schavan, members of the German parliament, a considerable number of businessmen amongst them the CEOs of foremost German multinational companies like Siemens, Lufthansa, BASF and the Munich Re Group, an eminent group of representatives of German research institutions and a large press delegation. The motorcade waiting for them was quite remarkable – about 40 limousines, buses and police cars had been lined up. A true challenge for the capital’s traffic management.

This was Chancellor Merkel’s first visit to India. She had been invited by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Delhi and Mumbai. Both leaders know each other well, have seen each other several times and speak on the phone quite regularly. At different occasions, both have underlined their mutual appreciation. It is no state secret that they get along very well and have developed an excellent working relationship. So it was – by political standards – a visit to good friends. And this was reflected in the visit’s agenda on both sides. Angela Merkel came exclusively to India – which is rather unusual, as German Chancellors normally travel to several countries in a row. Moreover, her visit lasted four days – her longest stay in a foreign country ever since she became the Federal Chancellor of Germany.

In order to honour the guest from Germany, the Indian side classified Mrs Merkel’s visit as a state visit. The German Chancellor was welcomed with military honours and paid her respects to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. Furthermore, the first day of her visit comprised of appointments with the President of India, the Vice-President and the Minister for External Affairs as well as with the leader of the opposition.
The Chancellor also met with Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the Congress Party. In the evening, she had an extensive discussion with the Prime Minister, followed by an official dinner in her honour at Hyderabad House. The press conference which both leaders addressed reflected an excellent Indo-German summit.

India and Germany are strategic partners. They share common values and interests, and regularly exchange views on all internationally relevant developments and subjects. Meetings between the two top leaders are a core element of this strategic partnership. The extensive discussions between Chancellor
Merkel and Prime Minister Singh on 30 October covered all the important fields of international politics including counter terrorism, climate change, energy security, UN reforms including the Security Council reform.

The density of the Indo-German strategic partnership was reflected in the joint statement issued after
their talks. Both leaders agreed on enhancing their cooperation in the field of energy efficiency. The bilateral defence cooperation shall be further developed. Germany and India are committed to and working for a fair and substantive outcome of the Doha Round. Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Singh emphasized the continuation of their commitment for a comprehensive Security Council Reform
in the framework of the G4. Furthermore, both sides decided to establish an Indo-German Science and Technology Centre.

Indo-German cooperation in the field of science and technology was one of the central topics for this visit. Together with the Prime Minister the Chancellor inaugurated the Science Express, a train exhibiting achievements and challenges of science. The Chancellor and the Prime Minister visited the exhibition and finally waved the train off with green flags. The Science Express is now travelling through 57 Indian cities on a journey of seven months. While the German Chancellor was accompanied by the Federal Minister for Education and Research Annette Schavan, the field of science and technology was duly reflected in the Indo-German joint statement and a couple of agreements in this field were signed. The responsible ministers as well as the presidents of German research organisations and their Indian counterparts met on the margins of the Chancellor’s visit. The message could not have been clearer: the field of science and technology will continue to play a central role in the strategic partnership India and Germany are committed to.

In order to get a deeper insight into Indian society, the Chancellor had expressed her wish to meet with representatives of Indian civil society. Intensive discussions about India’s development were held. In Delhi, Mrs Merkel met with artists, scholars and journalists. She also met with representatives of minority protection organisations in Mumbai. The lively talks covered the gamut of political, social and cultural issues. At Delhi’s Max Mueller Bhavan the Chancellor interacted with young Indians, who are learning German for a variety of reasons, and engaged in a lively debate on the role of the youth in Indian society, as well as Indian expectations of Germany. The Chancellor was amazed by the openness of the discussants, their readiness to answer questions and to share their experiences.

On two occasions – in Delhi and in Mumbai – the Chancellor interacted with the Indo-German business community. Both times she not only acknowledged the remarkable achievements of the past few years, but also encouraged Indian and German businessmen to further deepen the thriving economic ties between both the countries – and the business community gave a very positive response. They expressed confidence that the aim to double trade from €10 to 20 billion by 2012, which both leaders had set in their joint statement, would be achieved. However, activities of German companies in India are going much beyond trade and investment. In Mumbai Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society organized a conference on sustainable urban development inaugurated by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Deutsche Bank CEO Joseph Ackermann.

India’s impressive economic development is perceptible. However, the German Chancellor did not want to leave the country without an idea of the social challenges India has to cope with as well as the solutions state and civil society have to offer. The Chancellor visited a school for physically challenged
children in Mumbai’s Bandra Reservation, where she received a warm welcome from the pupils and teachers. Also in Mumbai, the Chancellor met with a group of rural women who are supported by the micro credits of NABARD which is partly funded by the German Government. It was a joyous and colourful encounter.

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Philipp Ackermann is Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs at the German Embassy, New Delhi.
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