Germany–India relations

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India-Germany relations
Map indicating locations of India and Germany



Bilateral relations between the Republic of India and the Germany have been traditionally strong due to commercial, cultural and technological co-operation.


A Sikh soldier (of the 4th Division (the Red Eagles) of the Indian Army, attached to the British Fifth Army in Italy) holding a captured swastika flag after the surrender of Nazi German forces in Italy. Behind him, fascist inscriptions on the mural says VIVA IL DUCE, "Long live the Duke" (Benito Mussolini). Photo circa May 1945

India and Germany had indirect contact during ancient times, resulting more visibly in Nazi Germany's use of the swastika in its flag.[1]

During World War I, India was under British rule. Consequently, the British Indian Army was ordered to contribute soldiers to the Allied war effort, including on the Western Front. Over 9000 soldiers died in World War I. Pro-independence activists within the colonial armies sought German assistance for the cause of India's freedom resulting in the Hindu German conspiracy during World War I.

During World War II, the Allied war effort mobilized 2.5 million volunteer troops from British India. Subhas Chandra Bose, a prominent freedom fighter for Indian independence, made a determined effort to obtain India's independence from Britain by seeking military assistance from the Axis powers. The Indische Legion was formed to serve as a liberation force for British-ruled India and was principally made up of British Indian prisoners of war and expatriates in Europe.

A Sikh soldier of the Indische Legion deployed to the Atlantic Wall near Bordeaux, France. (Photo taken on 21 March 1944 by Propagandakompanien der Wehrmacht)

The newly formed Republic of India was one of first nations to end the State of War with Germany after World War II and did not claim war reparations from Germany although 24,000 soldiers serving in the British Indian Army died in the campaign to fight Nazi Germany.[2]

India maintained diplomatic relations with both West Germany and East Germany and supported their reunification in 1990.[3][4]

Germany condemned India for liberating Goa from Portuguese rule in 1961 and supported Portugal's dictatorial regime under Salazar against India. Germany was critical of India for intervening in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Germany rejected India's 1998 nuclear tests[3] with Chancellor Helmut Kohl saying: "this was the wrong decision for them to take; we do not accept that decision."[5]

Bilateral relations[edit]

Official visits by German Presidents & Chancellors[edit]

In 2008, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made an official visit to India that led to the signing of several agreements expanding bilateral co-operation in commerce, science, technology and defence.[6]

In 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel led a German delegation which included German Federal Ministers of Transport, Building & Urban Development, Interior, Defence, Education & Research, Parliamentary State Secretary for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear safety; to the Second India-Germany Intergovernmental Consultations in New Delhi.

On 4 October 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to India for the Third Indo-German Inter-Governmental Consultations [7][8][9][10][11][12] accompanied by several members of her government (Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Science & Technology Minister Johanna Wanka, Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Muller, Food and Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt) and a contingent of business leaders. Merkel and her German delegation travelled on a German military cargo plane (a Luftwaffe Airbus A310 military transport aircraft called Kurt Schumacher) because the official government aircraft of the German Chancellor (Konrad Adenauer, a Luftwaffe Airbus A340-313 VIP) became unflightworthy after developing technical problems.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

On 5 October 2015, Angela Merkel visited Mahatma Gandhi's memorial at Raj Ghat and was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Presidential Palace prior to the Third Indo-German Inter-Governmental Consultations [22][23][24][25][26] which led to the signing of 18 Memorandums of Understanding (MoU).[27] Germany returned a 10th-century relic, a statue of the Hindu goddess Durga in her Mahishasuramardini avatar, which had been stolen from India.[28][29][30][31]

On 6 October 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held trade discussions on Indo-German science, technology & education cooperation with Angela Merkel in Bengaluru, India's aerospace and ICT hub, besides exploring opportunities to improve bilateral trade.[32][33][34][35] Merkel and Modi toured the vocational training facilities and innovation centre[36][37] of Robert Bosch - an OEM automotive parts supplier whose software is at the centre of the Volkswagen diesel emissions test violations scandal.[38][39][40][41][42][43] Angela Merkel's 3-day official visit to India concluded after the two leaders attended a business & technology forum hosted by NASSCOM and Fraunhofer Institute [44][45] where Merkel said: "India needs jobs, Germany needs people and collaboration is crucial to meet the demographic needs of both countries,"[46][47] and opined that the advantages for German companies in India are its huge market, a great growth potential and an impressive capacity for innovation.[48]

Foremost newspapers in both Germany and India - faithfully reflecting the principle societal interests within their respective countries - focussed primarily on the trade and investment aspects of the visit.[49][50][51][52][53][54] Germany's State broadcaster Deutsche Welle eloquently captured the prevailing mood regarding the visit with it's editorial titled:"A first step in the right direction – no more, no less".[55] Indian Express in an editorial titled "She came and went" pondered over the modest nature of agreements announced during the visit and placed the onus on India to raise its attractiveness as a partner through concrete socio-economic progress and improvements in bilateral relations in India's immediate neighbourhood.[56] The Hindu termed the visit as a dosis realitaet reality-check for Merkel and Modi.[57]

Strategic ties[edit]

The India-Germany strategic relationship is limited by the insignificance of German geopolitical influence in Asian affairs. Contrary to France and UK, Germany has no strategic footprint in Asia.

Anti-Indian public sentiment in Germany is an obstacle to the improvement of strategic ties between Germany and India.[58]

India and Germany both seek a permanent seat with veto powers at the United Nations Security Council and have joined with Japan and Brazil to coordinate their efforts via the G4 collective.[59] At the UN General Assembly summit in New York in September 2015, the P5 members of the UNSC dismissed any notion of dilution of their power at the UN's high-table and severely undermined efforts by G4 nations to gain access to the exclusive club. While India maintains that it will continue to demand a permanent seat within a reformed UNSC with powers identical to the P5 nations, it has signalled that strengthening of bilateral economic and political ties with neighbouring countries is the immediate priority.[60][61] Prevailing consensus within the United Nations that Europe is already over-represented within the UN Security Council, juxtaposed with long-established opposition from within Europe to the German candidature, constitute indomitable obstacles which confront Germany.[62][63][64][65][66]

Interviewed by The Hindu in the context of the 25th anniversary of German reunification, Mathias Rust the iconic German aviator who contributed to the downfall of the Soviet Union by landing a small aircraft near the Red Square in Moscow on 28 May 1987, surmised that institutional failures in Western countries to preserve moral standards and uphold the primacy of democratic ideals was creating mistrust between peoples and governments. Pointing to the genesis of a New Cold War between Russia and the Western powers, Mathias Rust suggested that India should tread with caution and avoid entanglement: “India will be better served if it follows a policy of neutrality while interacting with EU member countries as the big European powers at present are following the foreign policy of the U.S. unquestioningly,”. Mathias Rust drew attention to the casus belli which is fuelling Euroscepticism: “Governments have been dominated by the corporate entities and citizens have ceased to matter in public policy,”.[67][68]

Defence & Security[edit]

A German delegation led by Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen interacting with senior officers of the Indian Navy's Western Naval Command in Mumbai; 28 May 2015.

India and Germany maintain an ongoing dialogue in the areas of commercial maritime security and cooperate in the field of anti-terrorism. The Indian Navy and the German Navy conducted joint-exercises in 2008 for the first time, following an anti-piracy co-operation agreement between the two nations signed in 2006.

Germany's military is principally structured to defend Eastern Europe and to supporting NATO operations in the Western Europe theatre of operations.[69] Unlike UK and France, Germany not only does not have any sovereign territories in the Indo-Pacific region but is also incapable of power projection.[70][71] Manpower limitations and armament restrictions imposed upon Germany through the 1990 Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany[72] prevent it from developing expeditionary forces and blue-water assets.

The inability of Germany to independently sustain long-distance high-intensity military operations and hostile public sentiment in Germany towards overseas combat operations are obstacles to a meaningful strategic defence and security relationship.

Cultural & Education cooperation[edit]

Germany has supported education and cultural programmes in India.

Germany helped establish the Indian Institute of Technology Madras after both governments signed an agreement in 1956 and increased its co-operation and supply of technology and resources over the decades to help expand the institution.[73][74] India has launched seven micro-satellites into Polar orbits for German universities since 1999.

In the late 1960s, German aircraft designer Kurt Tank, who worked for Focke-Wulf during World War II, went to work in India. First was first employed as the Director of the Madras Institute of Technology, and later joined Hindustan Aeronautics, where he designed the Hindustan Marut fighter-bomber, the first military aircraft constructed in India. Kurt Tank left Hindustan Aeronautics in 1967 and by the 1970s had returned to live in Berlin.

Both nations established the Indo-German Science and Technology Centre in New Delhi to promote joint research and development in energy, environment, coal and water technologies.[6][74]

India and Germany have signed a MoU regarding the teaching of German-language in Kendriya Vidyalaya public schools in India and the reciprocal introduction of Sanskrit and modern Indian language in government schools in Germany.

Trade & Investment[edit]

Stiff competition between foreign manufactured goods within the Indian market has seen machine-tools, automotive parts and medical supplies from German Mittelstand ceding ground to high-technology imports manufactured by companies located in ASEAN & BRICS countries.[75][76][77][78]

For the 2012-2013 (April–July) period, India's top 10 trading partners according to data published by the Indian Ministry of Commerce:[79][80]

Rank Country Total Trade bn US$ Trade Share %
1  China 49.5 8.7
2  United States 46.0 8.1
3  United Arab Emirates (UAE) 45.4 8.0
4  Saudi Arabia 36.3 6.4
5   Switzerland 16.7 2.9
6  Iraq 15.5 2.7
7  Singapore 15.4 2.7
8  Indonesia 14.8 2.6
9  Germany 14.7 2.6
10  Hong Kong 14.6 2.6

According to German Statistisches Bundesamt Indo-German trade data for 2014 : total trade with India was €15.98billion (ranked 25) with €1.86billion trade balance in Germany's favour. German exports to India was €8.92billion (ranked 25), German imports from India was €7.06billion (ranked 27).[81]

Germany is India's largest trading partner in Europe. Germany is the 8th largest foreign direct investor (FDI) in India. Germany's FDI totaled about 5.2 billion USD during the period 2000-2012, constituting about 3% of total FDI to India. Indian investments in Germany have seen sharp increase in last few years.[82] (Note: As a measure of comparison, Remittances to India by the Indian diaspora world-wide was US$70 billion in 2013-14).[83][84]

Indian Prime-Minister Narendra Modi jointly opened the Hannover trade fair Hannover Messe 2015 on 12 April 2015 along with Angela Merkel [85] and held trade & investment discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.[86]

In September 2015, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) was instructed by the Indian government to investigate if vehicles from Volkswagen had circumvented Indian laws and regulations on vehicle emission testing following the Volkswagen pollution control scandal. Ambuj Sharma, additional secretary at the Ministry of Heavy Industry, said: "ARAI has been asked to submit its report within a week."[87][88][89]

German immigration rules force accompanying spouses of overseas Indian workers who do not hold an EU blue card to pass a German language proficiency test as a condition to receiving residency permits and visas. The German language proficiency test requirement does not apply to European Union citizens and those from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, South Korea and the USA.[90]



- Jakob De Roover, University of Ghent, Belgium
- Benjamin Zachariah, University of Heidelberg, Germany

General public[edit]

India suffers from a severe image deficit in Germany.[93][94]

In August 2007, a mob of over 50 persons attacked 8 Indians in Mügeln.[95][96][97][98]

In March 2015, Professor Annette Beck-Sickinger, the head of the biochemistry department at Leipzig University, caused furor in India by rejecting an internship application from an Indian student as a retaliation against India's 'culture of rape' and alluding to the existence of a wider Europe-wide boycott of Indian male students.[99][100][101][102] The racial profiling, gender discrimination and xenophobic undertones of the incident placed the spotlight on prevalent institutional bias, increasing intolerance to foreigners and level of respect for the human rights of persons of color in Germany.[103][104][105][106] Indians have been deeply critical of the German institutional approach to the 2015 Leipzig University intern-ship affair and the absence of sanctions against professor Annette Beck-Sickinger. The Leipzig University internship controversy, occurred just weeks before the April 2015 official visit to Germany by Indian Prime-Minister Narendra Modi at the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The tendency of Western social academics to over emphasise the importance of the caste system for all matters pertaining to India has made Europeans prone to explaining away India via the caste system.

The morbid fascination of European tourists with Hindu cremation rituals is perceived as lack of sensitivity besides being a gross invasion of privacy. Hoards of tourists flock to cremation grounds on the banks of the Ganges, especially in Varanasi (Bénarès), to photograph funeral pyres.

BBC World Service Country Rating Poll data for Germany & India[edit]

According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 32% of Indians view Germany's influence positively, 42% neutral and 26% expressing a negative view, while only 16% of Germans view India's influence positively, 16% neutral and 68% expressing a negative view.[93]

Results of 2014 BBC World Service poll.
Views of India's influence by country[93]
Sorted by Pos-Neg
Country polled Positive Negative Neutral Pos-Neg
 Germany 16 68 16 -52
 Pakistan 21 58 21 -37
 Spain 20 50 30 -30
 Israel 9 34 57 -25
 Mexico 26 37 37 -11
 South Korea 36 47 17 -11
 France 40 49 11 -9
 China 27 35 38 -8
 Canada 38 46 16 -8
 Peru 26 31 43 -5
 Australia 44 46 10 -2
 United Kingdom 45 46 9 -1
 Brazil 41 36 23 5
 Turkey 35 29 36 6
 Chile 35 21 44 14
 Indonesia 47 24 29 23
 Japan 34 9 57 25
 Kenya 53 23 24 30
 Ghana 53 22 25 31
 India 56 22 22 34
 Russia 45 9 46 36
 Nigeria 64 22 14 42
Results of 2014 BBC World Service poll.
Views of Germany's influence by country[107]
Sorted by Pos-Neg
Country polled Positive Negative Neutral Pos-Neg
 Israel 25 38 37 -13
 Spain 44 40 16 4
 India 32 26 42 6
 Pakistan 35 27 38 8
 China 42 22 36 20
 Mexico 45 24 31 21
 Peru 44 22 34 22
 Turkey 47 24 29 23
 Indonesia 53 28 19 25
 Chile 47 18 35 29
 Nigeria 63 23 14 40
 Japan 46 3 51 43
 Kenya 58 15 27 43
 Russia 57 12 31 45
 Brazil 66 21 13 45
 Germany 68 19 13 49
 Ghana 72 13 15 59
 Canada 77 10 13 67
 France 83 11 6 72
 United Kingdom 86 9 5 77
 South Korea 84 6 10 78
 Australia 86 7 7 79

See also[edit]


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