Modi in Berlin today, says ‘new chapter’ in ties

Monday, May 29th, 2017, 4:13 am

PM’s six-day tour to Germany, Spain, Russia and France assumes added significance as all are members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive in Berlin on Monday beginning a six-day, four-nation tour of Europe.

He will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks to tackle issues such as the impasse in the India-EU free trade agreement, as well as developing a common strategy to counter China’s moves on connectivity and preserving the international “rules-based” system.

“Our strategic partnership is based on democratic values and commitment to an open, inclusive and rules-based global order,” Mr. Modi said in a series of messages on his website, describing the visit to Germany as a “new chapter” in the bilateral strategic partnership.

From Germany, the Prime Minister will travel to Spain (May 29-30), Russia (May 31-June 1) and France (June 2-3). His meetings at each of these countries will also be significant given that all four are members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group that will meet in June to once again consider India’s membership application.

Mr. Modi is to meet all the leaders once again in July at the G-20 summit in Hamburg (Spain is not a G-20 country, but is a permanent invitee).

Free trade pact

Mr. Modi will land in the German capital and leave directly for Schloss Meseberg, a castle outside Berlin that serves as the official retreat for Chancellor Merkel and has been the backdrop for several high level summits. The Prime Minister he is expected to dine alone with the Chancellor.

On Tuesday morning, the leaders will meet for the fourth bi-annual Inter-Governmental Consultations (IGC) in Berlin, and are expected to sign a number of MoUs on trade and investment, security and counter-terrorism, innovation and science & technology, skill development, urban infrastructure, railways, civil aviation, clean energy, development cooperation, health and alternative medicine, according to officials.

Germany is India’s largest trading partner in the EU, and Ms. Merkel will make a push for a resumption of the EU-India Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), that has been suspended for four years.

Germany wants a commitment from India on either resuming talks with the EU or at least renewing the bilateral investment treaty that lapsed in March 2017.

Officials have warned that in the absence of any mechanism to protect German companies considering investments in India, their plans may be shelved.

Tackling Beijing

In a candid statement last week, German Ambassador Martin Ney had also said the “common questions” both countries share about China’s Belt and Road Initiative will be discussed, even as Germany and India explore joint projects for connectivity and development in Africa and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Mr. Modi will travel next to Spain for talks with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, expected to yield an agreement on counter-terrorism cooperation, which Mr. Modi referred to as a “common concern”.

“We seek [the] active participation of [the] Spanish industry in various Indian projects including infrastructure, smart cities, digital economy, renewable energy, defence and tourism,” he added in his statement on Sunday.

Mr Modi’s visit to St. Petersburg will mark the first time the Annual India-Russia summit is held outside of Moscow.

The Prime Minister will meet President Vladimir Putin for a “one-on-one” dinner on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

India and Austria are the guest countries this year at the SPIEF, an investor’s conference called the “Russian Davos”. Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin are expected to announce a “series of agreements”, officials said, while an MoU to construct the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project’s (KKNPP) reactors 5 & 6 is in its “final stages” before being signed.

Meet with Macron

The Prime Minister’s final stop in France will see his first meeting with newly elected President Emmanuel Macron. The two leaders are expected to review bilateral relations including cooperation on nuclear and renewable energy, and defence cooperation.