Diplomacy: Scholz wants to strengthen relations with India - also because of Russia

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has arrived in India for a two-day visit.

Diplomacy: Scholz wants to strengthen relations with India - also because of Russia

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has arrived in India for a two-day visit. In the capital, New Delhi, he wants to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who chairs the G20 of leading economic powers this year.

One of the main topics of the Chancellor's visit will be Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, on which India takes a neutral stance. India did not agree to the resolution by which the UN General Assembly on Thursday called for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, but abstained.

No lectures because of Russia course

Scholz wants to expand economic and strategic relations with India - in order to reduce its own dependency on China, but also to free India from its close ties to Russia. On his first visit to the subcontinent as chancellor, however, he doesn't want to come across as lecturing.

Scholz prepared for his trip last weekend in his speech at the Munich Security Conference with a quote from Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, which he made his own: "Europe must grow out of the mentality that Europe's problems are the world's problems, but that the problems of the world are not the problems of Europe." It was very well received by the Indian media.

In an interview with the "Times of India" shortly before his trip, Scholz avoided criticism of India's course on Russia and emphasized the similarities. "Together we stand for the sovereignty of states and the peaceful resolution of conflicts worldwide. We stand firmly behind the message that neo-imperialism will not prevail - history has proven this many times," he said.

Russia equips large part of Indian armed forces

India does not only work closely with Russia economically. Since the Russian attack on Ukraine, it has increased imports of relatively cheap Russian oil. Critics accuse the country of undermining Western sanctions in this way.

The federal government does not want to make this a problem. "It would be wrong if we saw this as a provocation," government officials said. In view of the size of India with its 1.4 billion inhabitants and the challenges facing the country, it is "not unreasonable behavior from a purely market economy point of view" on the part of India.

Militarily, too, India is very close to Russia. Much of the equipment used by the Indian Armed Forces comes from there. "It cannot be in our interest for things to stay that way," sources in German government circles say. Cooperation in the armaments sector will therefore play "an important role" during the trip. There are already "some interesting projects", especially in the maritime sector.

India wants new submarines - maybe with German help

According to Indian media reports, the government in New Delhi is looking for a cooperation partner for the production of six submarines. ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems from Germany would be an option, but South Korea should also be in the running. Such a deal would be worth several billion euros.

India currently has 16 conventional submarines and one nuclear submarine. The country is one of a total of nine countries believed to have nuclear weapons and has been in a conflict with neighboring Pakistan, which is also armed with nuclear weapons, for decades. Arms exports to India are therefore controversial.

A dozen business representatives present

Scholz is accompanied on the trip by a dozen business representatives. 1,800 German companies are already active in India. Among other things, Scholz will visit a location of the software group SAP on Sunday in the high-tech metropolis of Bengaluru - the southern Indian Silicon Valley.

Scholz sees potential for increased cooperation, especially in renewable energies, hydrogen, mobility, the pharmaceutical industry and the digital economy.

Climate protection should also play an important role during the trip. "Without key countries like India, we will not be able to limit the global temperature increase to such an extent that the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement remains within reach, and to master the green transition," Scholz told the Times of India".

India is the third largest producer of climate-damaging greenhouse gases after China and the USA, but is lagging behind when it comes to climate protection. The analysis portal Climate Action Tracker classifies India's plans in the fight against global warming as "highly inadequate".