PM leaves for Germany, to seek greater business ties
New Delhi: Ahead of his visit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he intends to seek greater business ties with Germany as India continues to take steps to boost domestic investments, attract foreign capital and spur the economy back to its long-term growth potential of eight per cent.
Singh, who left for Berlin on a three-day visit, said Germany is also a key partner for India in areas like infrastructure, manufacturing, science and technology, higher education, vocational training and clean and renewable energy.
"We expect to sign a number of agreements and Memorandums of Understanding in these areas," he said, adding, "I intend to seek greater trade and investment ties with Germany."
Germany is India's largest economic partner in Europe and one of the key global partners for trade, investment and technology. Indo-German bilateral trade had registered an increase of 18.4 per cent and reached Euros 18.37 billion in 2011. However, due to global economic slowdown, bilateral trade saw a dip of 5.5 per cent last year.
During his discussions, Singh will clarify to the German leadership the large number of steps and the reform process taken up by his government to improve the investment climate and make it a lucrative destination for investors.
"I will seek Chancellor (Angela) Merkel's support for an early conclusion of a balanced India-EU Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement. I will also propose that Europe keep its doors open to Indian investors and professionals," Singh, who will co-chair the 2nd round of Inter-Governmental Consultations (IGCs) with Merkel, said.
Noting that Germany plays a key role in the global economy and, in particular, in stability and growth in the Euro Zone, which has an important bearing on the Indian economy, Singh said at a time of persisting global economic weakness and uncertainty, he looks forward to discussing these issues with Merkel.
"We will also discuss our shared interests in United Nations Security Council reforms and a broad range of global developments, including with respect to Afghanistan, West Asia and the Asia Pacific region," he said in his departure statement.
During the visit, Singh will also call on President of Germany Joachim Gauck and participate in the closing ceremony of the 'Days of India in Germany', which was organised to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Germany.
The Prime Minister said India remains committed to a close, cooperative and mutually beneficial partnership with Germany.
This will be Singh's third bilateral visit to Germany and fifth bilateral Summit since his first visit to Germany in 2006.
His delegation includes Ministers of New and Renewable Energy, Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Commerce, Industry and Textiles, External Affairs, and Human Resource Development.
The IGCs, first held in May 2011 in Delhi, provide a useful forum for discussions on the full spectrum of bilateral relationship and have helped advance Indo-German cooperation in a broad range of areas.
Besides holding comprehensive bilateral talks with Merkel, the Prime Minister will also discuss key international and regional issues including Afghanistan and counter- terrorism.
India is expecting a "strong political thrust" from Germany, a key member of the 27-nation European bloc for early inking of the India-EU pact, according to Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.
"We are of the view that early conclusion of India-EU agreement will open up new economic opportunities to both sides and certainly that applies to the way we approach our economic engagements with Germany."
"The negotiations have reached an advanced stage and in fact there will another round of negotiations on April 15 when it will be taken forward. We will certainly be discussing the matter with the German side. We expect a strong political thrust from Germany for an early conclusion of the agreement," the Foreign Secretary said.
Mathai said in addition to the Ministers accompanying the Prime Minister, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, who is part of the delegation, will address security-related issues and hold a strategic dialogue during the visit.
On the Afghan situation, the Foreign Secretary said, "We have had interesting exchanges with Germany. As you know, Germany is a part of the ISAF and it has had a contingent in Mazar in the past. As the drawdown continues, Germany like the other countries would like to ensure that the future of Afghanistan is not marked by uncertainty and instability."
The two countries, which are part of G-4 (Brazil, India, Germany and Japan), will also hold talks on the Group's proposal on UN Security Council reforms.
"And while considering the G4 proposal, we will, of course, be looking at the modalities in which it can be taken forward, which means also considering ways in which we can deal with those groups within the UN system who have a different view," Mathai said.
The German Chancellor will host a dinner for Singh.
Tomorrow morning, the Prime Minister will be accorded a Ceremonial Welcome at the German State Chancellery after which he will jointly chair the IGC with Merkel.
In the evening, the Prime Minister will attend the wrapping up of "Days of India in Germany" cultural events.
As part of the celebrations, various events were held from May 2012 to March 2013, under the four themes–Connecting Minds, Connecting Capabilities, Connecting Ideas and Connecting Cultures.
On April 12, the Prime Minister will call on the President of Germany before his return.