ON A day Jammu and Kashmir loses its special status and stands bifurcated into two Union Territories, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be the first foreign leader to visit India after the government’s move on Jammu and Kashmir comes into force.
Merkel, who arrives on Thursday, will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi for bilateral talks on Friday. Calling India an “anchor of stability” in South Asia, German envoy to India Walter J Lindner said India has a strategic weight and importance.
Asked by reporters if the Kashmir issue will be discussed, Lindner said on Wednesday: “The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have a very good relationship and you can trust that they can talk about any issue they want to put on the table.”
Lindner said the position of Germany on Kashmir is consistent with that of the European Union which had asked India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue, seeking a peaceful and political solution, respectful of the interests of the Kashmiri population on both sides of the Line of Control.
On the visit of European Union parliamentarians to Kashmir, Lindner said, “The EU has already said it is a private visit and that is our stand too. We didn’t have any idea that they are coming to India and I know as much as you do.”
During Merkel’s two-day-visit, the two sides are expected to sign upto 20 agreements to strengthen the bilateral cooperation in various areas such as the economy, digitalisation, sustainable development and climate protection as well as culture and education.
The German envoy underscored the fact that Merkel has a special focus on India. “The (German) Chancellor also has a keen interest in India,” he told journalists in a meeting at his residence in Delhi.
“If there is a country that, compared to its importance and opportunities, is too often sailing under the radar in Germany, then it is India,” said Heiko Maas, German Minister for Foreign Affairs, addressing the German parliament ahead of a ministerial meeting with India taking place in Delhi this week.
Merkel and her ministers will be accompanied by a high-powered business delegation. It’s the fifth time that both governments are holding ministerial talks. The delegation will represent 12 of 15 ministries, “something we only do with very few countries”, Lindner said, stressing that Germany regards India as an important “anchor of stability” in the region.
“Germany shares very close ties with India and it is one such relationship that it shares with very few countries…All challenges to mankind, whether it is pollution or sustainable development or poverty, cannot be solved without cooperation with India,” he said.
Lindner said India has a “strategic weight and importance” and there are many areas of cooperation which the two countries can explore.
“The topics of discussions would include artificial intelligence, sustainable development, urban mobility, agriculture and football, among others,” he told reporters. Merkel will be visiting Raj Ghat on Friday and also visit Gandhi Smriti, a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. She will also be interacting with Indian women who made an impact in the society, Lindner said. “The female personalities would include lawyers, bloggers and start-up owners,” he said.