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Indian Ocean emerging as key strategic priority for Germany

According to senior German diplomatic sources, “a global competition is shaping up over this region” and Berlin, as a major trading power, has “an interest in ensuring a stable, rules-based Indian Ocean”.

world Updated: Apr 04, 2017 21:08 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting Germany next month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting Germany next month. (PTI File)

The Indian Ocean is a new strategic and diplomatic priority for Germany, which is for the first time holding a meeting of its ambassadors in Sri Lanka this week.

According to senior German diplomatic sources, “a global competition is shaping up over this region” and Berlin, as a major trading power, has “an interest in ensuring a stable, rules-based Indian Ocean”.

“We believe the Indian Ocean is underrated in geopolitics,” said a German diplomatic source.

Underlining this focus, Germany’s foreign ministry is for the first time holding a meeting of its envoys in Sri Lanka from Wednesday, mostly those drawn from the region but also from Moscow and Beijing.

Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar will be among outside speakers invited to address the German diplomats on the Indian Ocean, the sources said.

A diplomat noted Germany had arrived at its Indian Ocean focus through its own geopolitical calculations. “We need to bring attention to this body of water.”

On Tuesday, German state secretary Markus Ederer met Jaishankar, his Indian counterpart, in New Delhi ahead of the ambassadors’ conclave. The two also consulted about the agenda for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Germany next month.

The two also spoke of Indo-German collaboration in New Delhi’s goals in renewable energy, smart cities and cleaning the Ganga.

“Germany has developed a package for the Indian Ocean rim states,” said a source. “This ‘maritime agenda’ includes collaboration in the blue economy and connectivity projects.” Berlin has already begun a pilot project in Indonesia.

Ederer and Jaishankar also spoke of what countries such as India and Germany can do in a “recalibrated world”, where the interests of Washington and Beijing are changing. “At a time when the global free trade regime is under pressure” and “the US is retrenching”, said a source, both governments feel they need to take “greater responsibility for our respective regions”.

India is one of Germany’s most important strategic partners globally in this regard, said the source.

Non-China NSG objectors favour India

Members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that had opposed India joining on procedural grounds “are now on board”, a senior German diplomatic source said. There is “greater buy-in” from these countries about having India within the NSG, the source added.

The NSG consultative committee discussing Indian membership is currently holding proceedings. “Germany supports its proceedings,” the source said.

Austria, Ireland, Switzerland, Turkey and New Zealand are known to have objected to India’s candidature on the ground that there is no agreed upon procedure for it to become a member. Some reports indicated Brazil too had objected, though this was denied by Indian officials.

This would indicate China is isolated in the NSG. Beijing is believed to be opposing India’s membership as a favour to Islamabad, which fears that once India joins, there will be no possibility of Pakistan becoming a member.