PARTNER-ATLAS

INDIA

as a partner for strengthening a values and rules-based world order

01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas

RELEVANCE: What relevance does India have for Germany with regards to "strengthening a values and rules-based world order"?

Germany has a vital interest in maintaining and consolidating a world order based on the values of liberal democracy and on the centrality of the United Nations (UN). Given the USA’s global withdrawal, which the coronavirus pandemic has made even more evident, Germany needs to pursue this goal together with other international partners. With the Indo-Pacific Guidelines that were released in September 2020, the Federal Government expressly commits itself to this task in the region that is taking centre stage in the 21st century. India’s importance can hardly be overestimated in this respect: India is already the largest democracy in the world, and within the next decade it will replace China as the most populous country. Like Germany, the subcontinent at the Indo-Pacific interface is dependent on a solid security structure, an open trading system, and free navigation in international waters. India is severely affected by the consequences of global warming due to its vulnerable ecosystems and is reliant on multilateral approaches to solve this global problem.

As much as it makes sense to intensify German-Indian cooperation to strengthen the world order, the German federal government must also take India’s domestic political development into account. Under Prime Minister Modi’s government, the potential for value-based cooperation is being challenged by strong Hindu nationalism and discriminatory legislation. Even when, at the beginning of the pandemic, Muslims were attacked on social media for allegedly spreading Covid infections, the government turned a blind eye for too long. All the more reason for Germany and the international community to do their utmost to support the secular system of diversity and tolerance that has given India its great strength. The potential for jointly strengthening the values and rules-based world order crucially depends on whether India continues to protect, within its own borders, the liberal values on whose foundation it has become the world’s largest democracy.

WILLINGNESS: To what extent is India willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?

In its dynamism and ambitions, Indian foreign policy under Modi and his Foreign Minister Jaishankar differs considerably from the restraint that had largely characterised India since its independence. New Delhi is working towards a multipolar world order, in which it seeks closer strategic cooperation with international partners, pragmatically and with an openly acknowledged willingness to take risks.

In India’s vicinity, China is taking an increasingly aggressive stance and is also forging strategic coalitions. As part of its Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing is not only building railways, pipelines and ports around India, but is also gradually making the governments of participating countries politically dependent on Beijing.

India is absolutely determined to prevent being left behind in global politics. It is therefore clearly prepared to cooperate with Germany on strengthening the world order. At a ministerial meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism in New York in September 2019, the Indian foreign minister stated that his country was “delighted” to join this alliance, because multilateralism was of paramount importance and was coming under pressure worldwide from nationalism and mercantilism.

STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and India's current cooperation in this area?

In October 2019, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Modi emphasised that the Indo-German strategic partnership was based on jointly strengthening the rules-based international order. They also expressed their support for the international trading system in accordance with the rules of the World Trade Organisation. In addition, both countries have been working for a long time to reform the UN Security Council and have assured each other of their mutual support for a permanent seat in this body, which is crucial to the world order.

Apart from these fundamental, shared ambitions, Germany and India have been increasingly testing the waters in recent multilateral initiatives. In addition to the Franco-German alliance for multilateralism, this also applies to specifically themed formats that India has initiated. Germany has recently joined the India-led Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) which is designed to contain damage caused by natural disasters worldwide. The federal government also announced its intention to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to promote environmentally friendly and sustainable energy production together with India.

During Merkel’s last visit to India, however, differences of opinion became apparent that need to be discussed in the context of a value-based cooperation. While the differences related to the tough stance taken by the Indian government in Kashmir province, discussions at the working level will undoubtedly continue on controversial issues of citizenship and ethnic discrimination.

POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and India in this area?

In view of the growing global influence of authoritarian states and the politicisation of the Covid crisis, there is enormous potential for a stronger German-Indian partnership for maintaining the rules-based world order. Cooperation in the above-mentioned multilateral formats has only just begun and is underpinned by countless facets of the existing strategic partnership. The potential for joint Indo-German political projects is growing, based on mutual trust that builds up during constructive cooperation in each of these initiatives. The objective must be to develop a leverage effect through the cooperation of these two countries, both of which are influential foreign-policy players, and to acquire further partners for multilateral alliances.

Moreover, the pandemic cannot be contained without getting India’s infection rate under control. While infections have gone down after the disastrous outbreaks in April and May 2021, only a small part of the Indian population has been vaccinated so far. Germany must try to ensure, to the best of its ability, that the availability of vaccines in India increases, especially via the vaccine platform COVAX, and that India is firmly embedded in the global strategy against the spread of the Covid virus.

Last but not least, there is considerable potential in the area of security policy. The German federal government admitted to its Indian partners that “hard security”, i.e. military capacity, was also necessary for a balance of power. More confidence-building through military cooperation would be urgently needed in order to use the German-Indian cooperation potential for the joint establishment and maintenance a security structure.

POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?

In order to strengthen the rules-based world order together with India, German foreign policy must become more purposeful and courageous, but also more flexible. In the past, India demonstrated on many occasions that it was not an easy partner; the country did not even commit to the alliance for multilateralism when it first had the chance. Now that this step has been taken, it is time for the partners to breathe life into their multilateral cooperation. It is in Germany’s interest to confidently and consistently pursue specific projects. In order to achieve a form of cooperation that is based on shared values, Germany, together with the EU, should appeal to India to draw its strength precisely from the plurality for which it is recognised worldwide.

At the same time, Germany should commit itself, with conviction and the necessary flexibility, to the multilateral initiatives that India has launched. In the fight against the Covid pandemic, both countries should be firm advocates for long-term global solutions, in medical care, and in building resilience. Smaller formats for cooperation should gradually be strengthened in the area of security policy, in order to create the basis for in-depth cooperation. Both sides must demonstrate to each other that they can compromise for the benefit of closer cooperation.

The most important change, however, would be to fundamentally rethink the political approach. The federal government will have to deliver on its Indo-Pacific Guidelines. Germany rightly dedicates enormous resources to crisis management and urgent strategic challenges. At the same time, however, it is the duty of foreign policy and diplomatic decision-makers to start taking a closer look at a country that offers the biggest potential for strengthening the values and rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region, a world region that is pointing the way into the future. That country is India.

Lewe Paul is Desk Officer for South Asia in the European and International Cooperation Department.

Last update: July 23rd, 2021

INDIA

  • Population: 1,380,004,385
  • Capital: New Delhi

02 — Foreign Office

Contact:

Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V.
Foundation Office India
B-4, Ground Floor I West End I Rao Tula Ram Marg
110 021 New Delhi
India

04 — The region

Asia and the Pacific

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JAPAN

For Germany, Japan is one of the most important economic and value partners in Asia. In addition to the wish for jointly maintaining and further developing the multilateral order, there is also the desire for closer cooperation in future technologies. Japan and Germany face similar challenges, particularly in regard to the future of industrial production and the demographic development of their societies.

  • Population: 126,476,461
  • Capital: Tokyo
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INDIA

Germany has a vital interest in maintaining and consolidating a world order based on the values of liberal democracy and on the centrality of the United Nations (UN). Given the USA’s global withdrawal, which the coronavirus pandemic has made even more evident, Germany needs to pursue this goal together with other international partners. With the Indo-Pacific Guidelines that were released in September 2020, the Federal Government expressly commits itself to this task in the region that is taking centre stage in the 21st century. India’s importance can hardly be overestimated in this respect: India is already the largest democracy in the world, and within the next decade it will replace China as the most populous country. Like Germany, the subcontinent at the Indo-Pacific interface is dependent on a solid security structure, an open trading system, and free navigation in international waters. India is severely affected by the consequences of global warming due to its vulnerable ecosystems and is reliant on multilateral approaches to solve this global problem.

  • Population: 1,380,004,385
  • Capital: New Delhi
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AFGHANISTAN

For decades, Afghanistan was the country with the largest diaspora in the world. In 2015, this position was taken by Syria. Afghanistan looks back on 40 years of fleeing refugees, emigration and expulsion due to civil war, violence and destroyed livelihoods. Since 2001, the country has been one of Germany’s most important security partners in the Middle East. Afghanistan is also a reliable partner in migration policy and has never used migration flows as political leverage.

  • Population: 38,928,346
  • Capital: Kabul
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KAZAKHSTAN

The Expo 2017 world exhibition, a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (2018), the peace talks on Syria: no country in Central Asia is as oriented towards Europe and Germany as Kazakhstan. Nevertheless, much of what has happened recently in Kazakhstan and Central Asia has remained below Germany’s threshold of perception.

  • Population: appr. 19 million
  • Capital: Nur-Sultan
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VIETNAM

Vietnam is one of the few communist countries. A “socialist-oriented market economy” determines the country’s economic status, the communist party vigorously enforces its claim to total power, and the country is subject to fierce criticism in reports on human rights. At the same time, more than three decades of economic growth and political stability have led to Vietnam establishing itself as an influential player in Southeast Asia. An early and vigorous response to the coronavirus crisis has so far managed to limit the dangers to health and the economy.

  • Population: 95,529,003
  • Capital: Hanoi
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