In a more robust joint statement than the one issued two years ago, India and Germany Friday called for a halt to “cross border movement of terrorists” and asked all countries to ensure that their territory is “not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries”.
Later, in a separate interaction with the German media, visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would discuss the issue of Kashmir with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The situation for the people on the ground as of now is not good for the long-term, this certainly has to change,” she said, adding that she would advocate “de-escalation and relaxation”.
The joint statement, which was issued earlier after Modi met Merkel, is far stronger than the one issued in May 2017 when he had visited Germany. From Delhi’s perspective, it is aimed at Pakistan.
Friday’s statement also indicated that Germany has moved closer to India’s position on Afghanistan, as they agreed on the need for “dismantling of terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries”.
After their meeting during the day, Modi said: “We have resolved to intensify bilateral and multilateral cooperation to deal with terrorism and extremism.” Later, the two leaders met over an official dinner hosted by the Prime Minister.
Responding to questions on Kashmir earlier from the German media, Merkel said: “About Kashmir specifically we haven’t spoken yet. It will be on the agenda tonight and I will say that we advocate de-escalation and relaxation….We hope that India and Pakistan will find a peaceful solution together…We know the Indian position. But I first also want to hear the arguments of the Prime Minister.”
The joint statement, meanwhile, said Germany will work toward facilitating “export of military equipment as well as technology sharing” with India. In another key upgrade, it also sought deeper cooperation between the defence industries of both countries to take advantage of “defence corridors set up in the states of Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh” under the Make in India initiative.
The two sides also decided to establish regular dialogue between their defence ministers, alternately in India and in Germany, at least once every two years.
The joint statement said the two leaders expressed strong concern on the “global scourge” of terrorism and called upon all countries to work towards disrupting terrorist networks and financing channels. “The leaders underlined the need for all countries to ensure that their territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries in any manner,” it said.
Referring to the need for presenting a united front in the fight against terror, the two leaders called for the finalisation and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in March 2020. While the CCIT was mentioned in the 2017 statement, this is the first time that a deadline has been specified.
While agreeing to continue cooperation within the framework of the Joint Working Group on counter-terrorism, they spelt out specific the areas this time: “information and intelligence sharing on terror networks” and experiences in dealing with the growing phenomenon of “radicalisation”. The two leaders asked officials on both sides to schedule the next meeting of this working group at the earliest.
The two sides also agreed to “deepen efforts to restart” stalled negotiations between India and the European Union (EU) on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA). Negotiations have been held up since May 2013 after both sides failed to bridge gaps on crucial issues.
On Afghanistan, India welcomed Germany’s efforts at co-organising an Intra-Afghan Dialogue that includes the government and ensures an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
“They called for a cessation of violence; breaking of all ties to international terrorism; dismantling of terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries; preservation of the Constitutional order and the respect for the universal human rights of all Afghan citizens as enshrined in the Constitution. Germany appreciated India’s contribution in development cooperation and rebuilding of Afghanistan,” the statement said.
A total of 17 agreements were signed in the fields of agriculture, maritime technology, ayurveda and yoga, among others. Besides, five joint declarations of intent, including cooperation on strategic projects, green urban mobility, artificial intelligence and prevention of marine litter, were also signed.
“We will be happy to engage in big infrastructure projects which India is envisaging,” Merkel said.
The Chancellor referred to “artificial intelligence” and “digital transformation” as an area of cooperation. “India has a huge potential here especially when it comes to digitalisation. But the development is very fast as when it comes to 5G and AI. It’s a challenge and if we work together, this would be a wonderful way of cooperation. It’s also about trade, innovation, investment and knowledge,” she said.
While “economic relations” have increased, Merkel said they could be “intensified even more”, while referring to the fast-track mechanism. “We can bring some cases where difficulties have occurred in terms of economic investments. We could really find help here quickly and make India a modern industrialised nation,” she said.