German warship to patrol Indian Ocean from next year
Germany’s defence minister announced one of the country’s warships will patrol the Indian Ocean as part of plans to manage China’s influence in the region even as foreign secretary Harsh Shringla held talks in Berlin on Monday to boost cooperation in areas ranging from post-pandemic recovery to the Indo-Pacific.
Shringla, who held back-to-back meetings in Berlin with his German counterpart Miguel Berger, other senior officials and representatives of think tanks, highlighted the scope for working together for trade and investment, creation of diversified supply changes and counter-terrorism.
Ahead of Shringla’s arrival in Berlin as part of a three-nation tour, German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told The Sydney Morning Herald that a German frigate is set to patrol the Indian Ocean next year and the country’s naval presence in the Indo-Pacific will help safeguard the rule-based order.
“We hope to be able to deploy next year,” she said. “We will be spending more on defence in 2021 than in 2020 despite the fact that [the Covid-19 pandemic] has hit our budgets. Now the key is to translate this into real muscle.”
Kramp-Karrenbauer said Germany is working within NATO to expand relations with like-minded states such as Australia. “I am convinced territorial disputes, violations of international law and China’s ambitions for global supremacy can only be approached multilaterally,” she said.
These moves come close on the heels of Germany unveiling its Indo-Pacific policy in September, when foreign minister Heiko Maas said latent conflicts in the region “would have global repercussions were they to erupt”.
Shringla told his German government interlocutors that India has faced multiple challenges in recent months because of the pandemic, “tensions on our northern border and the ever-present menace of terrorism on our western border”.
India has noted that Germany’s Indo-Pacific guidelines recognise the need to diversify supply chains, and both countries have a “clear convergence of interest in this area”, he said during his meetings.
With New Delhi placing reforms at the centre of its agenda, German companies can find in India one of the fastest growing economies, the fourth largest start-up ecosystem after the US, China and the UK, and a large and growing market, Shringla said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atmanirbhar Bharat or self-reliance initiative isn’t a “protectionist slogan”, but a call to strengthen the framework related to infrastructure, land and labour that will make India a preferred partner for global supply chains, he added.
Shringla noted India and Europe have common interests in combating terrorism and supporting multilateralism. The recent terror attacks in France vindicated India’s assertion that terrorism knows no borders and had been strengthened by the use of sophisticated networks, underground and on the internet, that should be disrupted, he said.
Shringla also told members of German think tanks the pandemic has provided an opportunity to realign and shift focus to countries and regions that will be prime movers in shaping the “global governance architecture of the future”. He said India “cannot be left on the periphery” in this exercise.
Sameer Patil, fellow for international security studies at Gateway House, said Germany’s focus on the Indo-Pacific is a natural extension of its commercial and strategic interests, and the activities of its partners such as France in the region. “Germany is one of the most powerful military players in the European Union after the exit of the UK and key European players are realising the importance of the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
“The European states will be more than happy to see Germany and France take the lead in the Indo-Pacific region,” Patil said.
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