A democratic and strategic dissonance in India-German ties

Contact Counsellor

A democratic and strategic dissonance in India-German ties

  • Prime Minister’s recent visit to Germany came at a critical time, shaped by the ongoing Ukraine war.
  • Even as the United States and the European nations have applied sanctions on Moscow and provided military aid to Ukraine, New Delhi has refused to play ball.
  • Such moves have raised eyebrows and attracted some amount of criticism from the West.
  • New Delhi, however, insists that its position on the war is non-partisan and should be appreciated by its allies and friends.

For a nuanced stance

  • There is growing recognition in India’s strategic circles that New Delhi has to bring more nuance to its approach to Europe.
  • Given India’s stature, being completely isolated by the West is certainly not a best-case scenario.
  • With an assertive China on the world stage and at the border with India, New Delhi needs to manage a delicate balancing act while asserting its right to pursue its national interests and strategic autonomy in foreign policy.

Europe and Russia

  • There is a clear, albeit delayed, move toward a unified response about Russia in Europe. Its significant reliance on Russian gas and crude notwithstanding, condemnation of Moscow’s moves in Ukraine is near-unanimous in Europe.
  • India’s abstention in the UN votes and the continuation of its relationship with Russia have raised quite a few hackles in Germany.
  • In private as well as public discussions, India’s role as a major power and largest democracy is being brought to the forefront and there is a growing expectation that India needs to make a shift from its position on Russia and join hands with the European countries and the U.S. in protecting democracy in need.
  • Amidst these expectations and pressure tactics, whether the Prime Minister’s visit to Germany helped change the perception and bridge the gap that has been growing, assumes critical importance.
  • As proved by the Ukraine war, however, New Delhi has chosen to prioritize its interests over pursuing a policy shaped by common democratic values that define Germany, Japan, and India.

The China factor

  • For several years now, Indian policies have resisted promoting democracy in the neighborhood and have instead opted to deal with de facto powers.
  • Afghanistan, where India is still reluctant to do business with the Taliban, is probably an aberration.
  • India’s policy towards Myanmar’s junta is defined by this pragmatism.
  • Therefore, the democratic rationale of a convergence of interests to protect democratic values is hardly a strong binding cord between India and Germany.
  • The geopolitical convergence of countering the rise of China particularly in the Indo-Pacific seems to be a more compelling necessity than the ideational and normative aspects of protecting democratic norms and values.

Engagement with Europe

  • So far, India has not revised its position on Russia and Ukraine, by continuing to underline its unequivocal condemnation of the violence.
  • However, India makes it clear that irrespective of its position on a solitary issue of geopolitical relevance, the bilateral engagement with countries like Germany, France, and Denmark remains at the top of its priority.
  • Purpose - to present itself as not being isolated but as a swing power that can move deftly on the geopolitical and diplomatic chessboard.
  • The holding of the sixth India-Germany Inter-Governmental Consultations (IGC), a biennial format which India conducts with Germany, assumed critical importance.
  • India attaches significant importance to the ‘long-standing commercial ties with Germany, an important pillar of the ‘Strategic Partnership’, which the two nations entered into in 2000.
  • To highlight the convergence of issues of economics, technology, and climate change (low hanging fruits).

There is room for full ties

  • India-Germany relations have yet to achieve their full potential.
  • As there is a lack of understanding of each other’s strategic cultures and domestic politics.
  • Germany has invited India to the G-7 meeting in June this year, construed as a bid to wean India away from its position on Russia.
  • However, while the attempt may not be successful, it is certainly a pointer to the emerging multipolarity in the international system, which provides space for major powers such as Germany and India to play a greater role in bringing peace and stability in other theatres, particularly in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.
  • In times of shifting geopolitical alliances and realignments, India and Germany can emerge as important poles in shaping the new world order.

Exam Track

Prelims Take Away

  • Location-based question