Transcript of Special Briefing by Foreign Secretary on the Visit of German Chancellor to India (February 25, 2023)

February 25, 2023

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to all of you. Thank you for joining us today for the special briefing on the occasion of the State visit of the Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, His Excellency Mr. Olaf Scholz. Federal Chancellor has just concluded his conversation with Prime Minister as well as actually with Rashapati ji right now. To give us a sense of the conversations and the discussions, we have with us Foreign Secretary Sir, Shri Vinay Kwatra. Also joining us on the dais is our Ambassador to Germany Shri P. Harish, as well as Joint Secretary in the Europe West Division in the Ministry, Shri Sandeep Chakravorty. Sir, may I hand over the floor to you.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you very much and a very good afternoon to dear friends from the media for being here this afternoon for this special briefing on the ongoing visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. As you all may know, Chancellor arrived here this morning and is in India on a State visit. After finishing his Delhi leg today, he departs for Bengaluru tomorrow. On his arrival today he was accorded a ceremonial reception at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He was then received by the Prime Minister at Hyderabad House for discussions on bilateral relations, regional and global issues of shared interest.

There was also a high-powered business roundtable, which saw participation of top industry leaders of Germany and India and was addressed both by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Chancellor Olaf Scholz. During this B2B engagement, a couple of important business arrangements were also signed on the sidelines. Prime Minister also hosted Chancellor Scholz for one-to-one lunch, and as I mentioned earlier, the two leaders covered a range of topics of bilateral, regional and global interest. Chancellor Scholz has just concluded his official engagements. His last engagement was call on Honourable Rashtrapati Ji, which just got over.

I would just take this opportunity to highlight some of the key aspects of the discussions and the outcomes. Chancellor Scholz’s last visit to India was in 2012. That was his standalone visit. He came at that time as the Mayor of Hamburg City. So one thread, which ran through the discussions, which focused on the opportunities of bilateral cooperation, which talked about cooperation in the new and upcoming areas, which also focused on what the industries of the two country can do together, that one common thread was the remarkable transformation that Chancellor Scholz himself appreciated and noted, that remarkable transformation in India's economic and developmental story since 2012, more particularly under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. That formed not just the basis but that also formed actually the substance, the growing substance, of India-Germany partnership over the last years since Chancellor Scholz’s last visit to India, his first standalone visit. Coming in a year when India holds the G20 presidency, the Chancellor’s visit was also very welcome opportunity to talk about other regional and global issues of importance.

As you are all aware, India‑Germany relations rest on a very strong pillar of trade and investment linkages, and during the discussions both Chancellor Scholz and Prime Minister Modi emphasized and underlined the complementary nature of our bilateral relationship and appreciated that the ecosystem, the bandwidth, and the entire range of our trade and investment partnership is huge, growing and something which the two systems need to prioritize in coming years. Prime Minister Modi also mentioned that this was an opportune movement for the German companies to move into India and benefit from very favorable pro-investment climate in India, particularly in the field of manufacturing and engineering.

During the discussions, the two leaders also took stock of the progress in the implementation of decisions taken since the last sixth intergovernmental consultations meeting. They particularly appreciated the steps that the two systems have taken to implement the green and sustainable development partnership, which was launched during the sixth IGC. The Green and Sustainable Development Partnership, the GSDP is an umbrella partnership that provides political guidance to our ties in climate action and in the field of SDGs. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi did highlight the importance and the strength and the specifics of India's commitment to climate action. He did highlight that although India is looking to go Net Zero by 2070; in the field of railways, India plans to go Net Zero by 2030.

The other key element which they took stock of and which has been a good story in our cooperation is the progress in triangular development cooperation projects in third countries. During the IGC, we had announced four countries where such cooperation would take place between India and Germany - Cameroon, Ghana, Malawi and Peru, and these are now in very advanced stages of implementation and this has been one of the new and important areas of our partnership globally. There also again flowing from that common thread of opportunities emerging out of India's transformational economic story was the partnership and cooperation in the field of migration and mobility. You would all know that the migration and mobility partnership agreement was signed in December 2022 and this is something which essentially would not just be a catalyst in what we do in the field of trade and investment partnership, but would also be a great step in people-to-people ties and connectivity of skillful talents between the two countries.

Prime Minister Shri Modi and Chancellor also took forward their discussions on enhanced defense cooperation. Both of them noted that this defense cooperation is an important pillar of India-Germany Strategic Partnership. We naturally did put forward our views on how our partnership, particularly in the field of co-design, co-innovation, transfer of technology could move forward overall in the larger field of defense. As two democratic leaders who are conscious of their global responsibilities, their conversation also covered regional and global issues of mutual concern, including the situation in Ukraine.

The business roundtable saw a very engaging interaction between the leaders and the captains of the industry on both sides, and if you were to go through the list of participants in the business roundtable, you will see it's effectively who's who of Indian industry and of the German industry. One of the elements with regard to discussions between the two leaders on economic cooperation was the need to cooperate, to build supply chains that are reliable, that are diversified and that are also sustainable. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi highlighted the steps taken by India to strengthen India's own ecosystem of manufacturing and how that offers a unique opportunity to the German businesses and the industry.

The two leaders also, Chancellor Shcolz particularly, highlighted on the importance of the next Asia-Pacific Conference of German Businesses, which he said is likely to be hosted in India in 2024, which again, as I said, highlights the growing substance and strength of India-Germany economic and investment cooperation.

Apart from these discussions, there were also discussions on the larger sphere of innovation and technology, and in this regard, vision document to enhance cooperation and innovation in technology was also agreed to between the two sides and will shortly be made public. I am just told that it has already been issued and it’s there in the public domain. The five key elements of that vision document if I was to just specify for your benefit. One, relates to energy partnership and clean technologies including green hydrogen. Two, strengthening the framework and ecosystem of technology enterprises and technology related industry. Three, digital technologies including, in particular, fintech. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi explained at some length the huge leap of progress that the Indian technology industry, particularly the fintech sector, has made with the view to empowering our own citizens and also allowing the benefits of that progress to be reaped by the other countries in the world. Artificial intelligence is another element of the technology innovation document, and of course, opportunities for collaboration on the next generation of telecom technologies, call it 5G, call it 6G, etc.

The overall atmosphere of discussion was extremely positive and very engaging, very enriching in terms of the specific areas of partnership that the two countries have been focusing on and also the new areas which we could talk about. As I said, the Chancellor is here on his first visit, standalone visit after 2012, but also as a Chancellor during his tenure, this is his first standalone visit to India.

Let me stop here at this stage, and if there are any questions, I’d be very happy to take them. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. We’ll take a few questions. Please introduce yourself and your organization.

Mukesh Kaushik: Sir, this Mukesh Kaushik from Dainik Bhaskar. As you said that situation in Ukraine was also discussed. Can you throw more light, what was that discussions? If some peace offer, peace formula also discussed? And how Chinese offer of ceasefire was seen by Germans?

Akhilesh Suman: I am Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV. My question is also related to what Mukesh Kaushik has asked. Any offer from German side whether India can help in whatever manner, because Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself in his opening statement, he said that we are ready to support any peace initiative. So any peace initiative that was suggested?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Offered by us?

Akhilesh Suman: Yeah. Sir, just the second question that what were the agreements signed between the two countries?

Sridhar: Sir, Sridhar from Asian Age. The German Chancellor made a very significant comment when he said that nations need to take a clear stand at the UN and they need to tell everyone where they stand on the issue of sovereignty of UN member nations and the protection of the UN Charter. So was this sort of a (inaudible) which we now abstained for the past one year on such resolutions?

Sidhant: Hi, sir. I’m Sidhant from WION. How much Chinese aggressive actions in Asia, particularly when it comes to Indo-Pacific was discussed, because while German Chancellor was talking about the Russia-Ukraine conflict and sovereignty not being respected, China is also doing the same in Asia. Was that focused during the talks?

Sudhi Ranjan: Sudhi Ranjan from Bloomberg, sir. If you could give us anymore details on the defense talks that the two leaders have had, and also any discussion that the two leaders have had on third world debt, because it is also a very big issue in the G20 finance. Did they discuss?

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Sorry, the last part I didn’t hear.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Third world debt.

Sudhi Ranjan: Did they discuss anything on third world debt?

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Okay. I think let me bunch up the questions relating to Ukraine, because they all fall in the same category by and large. Look, as I mentioned, the ongoing situation in Russia-Ukraine, being one of the important issues on the global front featured fairly extensively in discussions between the two leaders, between Chancellor Scholz and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is something which I'm repeating perhaps for the nth time, continuing from my previous briefings. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he said in his remarks that we are there to support anything which relates to the peace, is essentially if you look at Honourable Prime Minister's remarks which he made in Samarkand, "this is not the era of war”, and if you link it to what he has always been saying that dialogue and diplomacy is the path forward for the resolution of any conflict. The peace is not something that is just beneficial for Russia and Ukraine; peace is also something which is usually beneficial for the rest of the developing countries, because one of the most serious impacts of the Russia-Ukraine situation has been in terms of food, fuel and fertilizer insecurity so to speak, and most of that impact has been on the developing countries.

So, when we talk of dialogue and diplomacy, when we say this is not the era of war, obviously these two have a very direct link to the voice, to the constituency and to the action of peace. It's very, very self-obvious. I don't think it would be correct for me to speak about the Chinese peace formula. I think that is something which you probably need to query to the Chinese side, but the discussions between Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Chancellor Scholz focused on the complexity, which are arising out of Russia-Ukraine ongoing conflict, the way it impacts on the developing countries, what India and Germany need to do together to ensure that, one, the developing countries are insulated from that negative event, and also take steps to strengthen the constituency of peace, to strengthen the path of dialogue and diplomacy, so that we all can find good solution to this ongoing situation between Russia and Ukraine.

Sidhant to your question on Indo-Pacific challenges, Chinese challenge… See, the two leaders talked at extensive length about the regional and the global situation, and naturally, when they talk of regional situation, the opportunities and challenges in Indo-Pacific form a very important constituent of it. In framing that constituency, they also would look at how India and Germany can cooperate, one, to mitigate those challenges, and two, also to harness those opportunities which exist in this space.

On the defense cooperation, it was I would say a multi-pronged, multi-layered discussion on defense. A large part of it focuses on what the industry and businesses on the two sides can do. Again, part of it is related to what can be manufactured in India. Part of it also includes what can be co-designed here. A substantial part would also refer to which are the areas in which, especially if you are talking about particular equipment, which are the areas where the transfer of technology can take place. So that is one segment of it, how business and industry of the two countries comes together to harness the opportunities that are available in the manufacturing, in the engineering ecosystem in India. Use that to link with the field of defense and then within the field of defense using those complementarities, focus on manufacturing, co-designing, co-production, co-innovation. So that was of course one segment of cooperation. Second segment of cooperation in the field of defense obviously is how two governments, how the two systems can act as an enabler for such a defense and industry cooperation in the field of defense between the two countries. We did speak about the importance to liberalize the export control systems in Germany, because that also acts as a facilitator to further strengthen the defense cooperation between the two systems, between the two countries. Thank you.

So on the debt part… The nature of conversation between the two leaders on the debt was that when we focus on economic and development cooperation partnerships with other countries, we have to do it in a manner that doesn't burden their economic structures, that is more sustainable, and naturally, less debt or less debt burden on any economy will make their economic growth more sustainable, so the context of discussion with that. I think Germany and other countries and we in turn for Germany, we have a deep understanding and appreciations of each other’s positions that we take at the United Nations. It is both a position that is principled but also is a position which takes into account our respective interests.

Speaker 1: (Inaudible)

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: What agreements, the list of agreements? We will announce or we'll put it out after this.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: See, there were two G2G agreements. One, which I mentioned to you, India-Germany vision to enhance cooperation and innovation in technology. The second G2G agreement was a letter of intent, essentially focused on green hydrogen cooperation between the Department of Science and Technology and an Institute in Germany called Fraunhofer, I can't pronounce the last name correctly, but my Ambassador here, maybe he can brief you later on this. In the B2B outcomes, there was one MOU between the Skill Council of Green Jobs and the Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft e.V. - this is the counterparty in Germany. SFC Energy AG and FC TecNrgy Private Limited, this is another business to business agreement, and third was the Joint Declaration of Intent on the organization of the Asia-Pacific Conference in India, which as I mentioned, Chancellor Scholz also referred to it. It's likely to be organized in 2024 by the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Businesses in India.

Rishabh: This is Rishabh from Times Network. Secretary, you actually elaborated on the Ukraine-Russia conflict and discussions, but just today, Secretary Blinken from United States has said that India and China should use its influence on Russia and discuss things to stop any nuclear advancement by Russia. Did this also surface during the discussions between Chancellor and the Prime Minister.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think Foreign Secretary was pretty clear on our perspective...Anyway, I’ll come back.

Shrinjoy: Sir, Times Now. Sir, you rightly spoke about co-design, co-development and manufacturing in India. Now just a few days ago, the German side had said that as far as the submarines were concerned, that issue would be on the table today. So, I just wanted to know if it came up during the discussion and what was the result of it. We’re looking at six submarines and I'm sure you know.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Now that you've said, I'm aware of it, yes.

Siddhant: Hello sir. I am Siddhant from CNN News 18. My question to you is I want to comment from you on a report that has been published by Reuters saying that India doesn't want discussion on additional sanctions on Russia in G20.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Pause. This is not about the visit. We're talking about the visit. If it's not about the visit, I'm sorry. Next.

Rishikesh: Sir, Rishikesh from PTI. Did the issue of separatism, especially Khalistan, brought up during the discussion? Did German Chancellor offer any kind of assistance or help in tackling anti-India activities by Khalistani elements in Europe?

Yeshi Seli: This is Yeshi Seli from The New Indian Express. So, can you share some details on migration and mobility, because Germany is looking at skilled workforce from India, and what were the discussions on that?

Kallol: Kallol from The Hindu. As we understand, the Prime Minister said that India is willing to join any peace process for Ukraine, and the German Chancellor said, countries should, United Nations members should make their stand clear on..

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: You just said the same question. Is there anything new?

Kallol: I'm just coming to the question.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Please. We have a short time.

Kallol: So, you know, coming back to what Sridhar asked that, is it so that India and Germany basically agreed to disagree on Ukraine today?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: You wasted your question. Yeah. Last question.

Bramh Prakash: Sir, Brahm Prakash Zee News se. Mera sawaal yeh hai ki jin do muddon ko lagatar duniya bhar mein Bharat uthata raha hai, ek terrorism ko lekar aur dusra UN mein sudharan ko lekar, to kya in dono muddon par charcha hui hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) My question is related to two issues that India has constantly been raising globally, first is terrorism and the other regarding reform in UN. Were these issues discussed today?

Speaker 2: Hello, Sir. I am (inaudible) from The New Indian. This is on baby Ariha who's stuck in German custody. In fact, who is in Germany custody and parents are pleading to Indian government and they are fighting the legal battle. So what is the take of India on it and what is the process being taken by India for her return back to country?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: It's not directly related to the visit no? But anyway, it’s related to Germany. Okay, sir. With that we'll close.

Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you. So let me again, you know, bunch up the questions relating to Russia-Ukraine, use of influence, which you referred to, whether India and Germany agreed to disagree and all the shades in between. Let me sort of bunch them up all and mention to you, again, that when the two leaders undertook discussions on the situation in Russia-Ukraine, there was deep understanding and appreciation of - one, what is going on in that part of the world; two, how it impacts on the developing world; three, how both India and Germany can partner together to take steps, which strengthens the constituency of peace, which strengthens the voice of peace. It was the Indian Prime Minister who openly, as I said earlier on, stated in Samarkand that this is not the era of war. In the discussion, I would say, I only saw understanding and appreciations of each other’s perspective. So the definition that they agreed to disagree, let that remain yours. Definitely not stemming out of the conversation.

Shrinjoy, on your question of co-design, co-development, co-innovation and submarine… So, as I mentioned, as you know, the discussion on six pieces of submarine P-75I that you are referring to, that is something which remains a topic under discussions between the two governments. Naturally, when you talk of that project, which is, you know, yet to be finally decided upon in terms of direction it takes, co-design, co-development, manufacturing in India, transfer of technology - I'm sure would be important constituents of it as we go forward.

On the question relating to, you know… I'll combine the question, which was the question of Zee News, and there was another question whether question of Khalistan separatism etc. came up or not. Dekhiye aapne Pradhan Mantriji ka vaktavya suna hoga, jab unone apne press remarks mein spasht roop se kaha ki atankwadi aur algavwadi shaktiya, dono ki prabalta jo hai woh Bharat tatha Germany ke samajon ko kamzor banati hai, aur usme dono deshon ki jo vyavasthaye hai unme ek shashakt sahyog nitaand avashyak hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) See, you must have listened to the Prime Minister’s statement, where he clearly stated in his press remarks that terrorists and separatist groups weaken both Indian and German societies, and to tackle this challenge, strong cooperation is required between the systems of both the countries.

The same thought then also featured, this was, of course, the public part of what the Honourable Prime Minister said, not exactly what I said, but the essence of it. But in the conversation, Honorable Prime Minister did bring out very clearly, the challenges that we all face from the menace of terrorism including, in particular, the cross-border terrorism and also, of course, the separatist activities, which go on everywhere in the world.

Yeshi, to your question on migration and mobility, you know, as I mentioned, this was something which was signed in December last year. It was first initialed I think in May last year, got signed in December last year, has already been ratified on our side. It’s currently undergoing the process of ratification on the German side. That's what I'm told. The underlying thrust and the drive and the purpose of this Mobility and Migration Partnership Agreement is that how the demand-supply complementarity of skilled manpower joins and combines well with the industrial needs, with the needs of the businesses on both sides and contributes to the economic growth on both societies. I think it is something which is of great importance to both the countries, to both the economies, particularly, and also establishes that in today's world, it is not just the capital, the goods and the services that need to move in a structured way, but also perhaps the talent which needs to move very freely, skilled talent in particular, which needs to move freely for the benefit of both the economies.

With regard to, you know, your question on baby Ariha, three things I would say. You know, one, this is something of great sensitivity, something which we deeply care about, something on which our Embassy has been in very close touch with the parents, with the German authorities and trying to find a way forward. You would agree that since it involves baby infant child, there are serious issues relating to privacy. I don't think it would be correct for me to comment on those parts, but this is something which we deeply care about. We are very sensitive to, and we are regularly very, in close touch with the parents relating to this case. I don't think I should say anything more than that on this.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much, sir. Thank you also to Ambassador P. Harish, as well as Joint Secretary Sandeep Chakravorty. Thank you all for joining us. Good evening.


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