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Merkel spells out Asia plan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel feels India should play a stabilising role in Asia, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.
Hindustan Times | By Nilova Roy Chaudhury, Berlin
UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2007 01:45 AM IST

On the eve of her first visit to India, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday outlined her government’s vision for Asia, urging her Asian partners including India to take on greater responsibility for conflict resolution within the region.

Citing the example of China taking the initiative to resolve the North Korean nuclear impasse, Merkel, in a keynote address at a conference on ‘Europe and Asia – Towards a Common Future’ organised by her political party the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), said, “We depend on our Asian partners who, because of their immediate interest in the stability of the region, take on greater responsibility and move toward conflict resolution.”

Also addressing the conference were steel magnate, Lakshmi N. Mittal, British Conservative Party leader David Cameron and former Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan.

Mittal spoke of how steel helped Europe grow, and the need to face the challenges from Asia to survive and grow further, while Pitsuwan urged greater European Union and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) linkages.

Emphasising that she was not attempting to ‘play Asian countries against each other,’ Merkel said India, ‘one of our most important partners in development policies,’ should help to play a stabilising role in the region.

Though Merkel did not specifically refer to any specific cases in which she sought greater Indian intervention, the foreign policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Eckart von Klaeden, told HT that Germany sought greater Indian involvement in Myanmar.

“I firmly believe that of the G-4 (group of four, Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, who jointly seek permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council) India should be the one country that becomes a member. How can India assume such a role without greater involvement in the region?” von Klaeden asked.

Saying she would not directly comment on their bid for permanent seats at the UNSC, Merkel said the UN needs reform.

Releasing a Strategy Paper on ‘Asia as a Strategic Challenge and Opportunity for Germany and Europe’, von Klaeden candidly acknowledged Germany had ‘underestimated’ the rise of Asian giants like China and India and they were now scrambling to ensure they would not miss out on the opportunities available.

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