Four countries in six days: Prime Minister Modi makes a European connect

Four countries in six days: Prime Minister Modi makes a European connect
Four countries in six days: Prime Minister Modi makes a European connect

The Indian Prime Minister was on a packed tour of Germany, Spain, Russia and France in May/June and has returned with a slew of agreements and promising pacts for the future. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Berlin at the start of his European tour, the term used to describe the visit was the opening of a “new chapter” in the bilateral relations between India and Germany. The PM set off for his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at her country retreat of Schloss Meseberg soon after landing. Both leaders discussed issues of mutual interest in an informal setting over dinner at the 18th century palace, 50 miles north-west of Berlin. In an interview with German newspaper 'Handelsblatt', the Indian PM had a stark message for the Brexit-hit realities of Europe. He said: “The European Union is an important global player. Its stability has a significant bearing on global developments, including peace and security. "India values its strong and multi-faceted relationship with both the United Kingdom and the European Union and is committed to further strengthening its ties with both the Strategic Partners. We will continue this approach." He also warned against a tendency to drift towards protectionist moves. “We do have concerns regarding protectionist and anti-immigrant sentiments in the world. We are hopeful that they will be addressed. We live in an interconnected world. Movement of goods, capital and people across borders is essential to our collective progress and to realise the benefits of globalisation.” The PM also called for reform of the international order to reflect current day global realities rather than the global bodies created in the aftermath of the World War. “India has been seeking reform of the UN Security Council for quite some time... There is an urgent need to expand the Security Council,” he said, adding that India has all the credentials to become a permanent member in an expanded Security Council. On Indo-German ties, he said India sees Germany as an important partner in the national flagship programmes of Make in India, Skill India, Start-up India, Clean India and Smart Cities. He called on “more and more German companies to invest in India” during his inaugural address at the Indo-German Business Summit in Berlin as the speedy conclusion of an India-EU free trade agreement (FTA) was the focus for the German side. Highlighting the huge potential that remains untapped in the economic partnership, the PM said India will welcome German companies with open arms. [caption id="attachment_11473" align="alignleft" width="294"]

Modi with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris[/caption] “There are 600 Indo-German joint ventures operating in India, employing 200,000 people. But there is huge potential as Indo-German economic cooperation is below its full potential and to enhance this, we in India are waiting with open arms because we value German partnership a lot,” Modi said. The deadlocked FTA between India and the European Union (EU) was also highlighted at the summit, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and senior business leaders urging the PM for a speedy conclusion to the FTA. “There are growing protectionist trends around the world but Germany believes the value chains are so deeply interconnected that we will continue to create fair trading conditions. Within this context, it is important that the FTA makes progress,” Merkel said in her address at the summit. “Germany will continue to push Brussels to resolve negotiations more speedily and we are committed to implement and put into practise such an agreement. The negotiations have been tough because every country must safeguard their own interests and Germany will ensure that India's concerns are also put on the table,” she said. The representations came as it the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed India and EU negotiators are to take forward discussions on the agreement at a meeting in July. At the business summit, the PM's focus was on highlighting India's liberalised FDI regime and growing ease of doing business. Describing GST as the “most historic reform India ever done”, he said the trend of reforms is spreading fast to all states. He highlighted the abolition of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to “expand the engagement of overseas investors in Indian economy”. The central aspect of the German visit was the Fourth Inter-Governmental Consultations (IGC) during which the two leaders reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral issues and clinched 12 agreements. [caption id="attachment_11474" align="alignright" width="366"]

Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg[/caption] “The world can't move forward without innovation and we believe innovation and democratic values are a guarantee for development. India and Germany have both in our blood and we will move together in that direction,” Modi said at the conclusion of the IGC, a format he likened to the Pragati meeting he holds in Delhi. “India is a big country with many dreams. Our dreams are big and the timeline is short... Never before has India been so ready. We are at a take off stage,” he told Germany-based business leaders and chief executives. From Germany, Modi moved on to Madrid - the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Spain in 28 years but the key messages of an open Indian economy were the same across Europe. He held a bilateral summit with Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy and called on Spanish King Felipe VI as well as interacted with a select group of Spanish CEOs keen to invest in India during his day-long visit. The first meeting of the India-Spain CEOs Forum was held on the sidelines of the Spanish leg of his visit. “There is significant potential for deepening bilateral trade and investment ties. We seek active participation of Spanish industry in various Indian projects including infrastructure, smart cities, digital economy, renewable energy, defence and tourism,” he said. In Russia, Modi held bilateral talks with President Vladimir Putin before attending the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum as chief guest. Several agreements were clinched during this part of his visit, including some highlights:

  • India, Russia sign St. Petersburg Declaration for enhanced ties across the board
  • India, Russia to hold first tri-services exercises 'Indra 2017'
  • Agreement for Units 5 and 6 of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu
The Indian PM ended his four-nation tour with a meeting with newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron. The focus of his meeting in Paris was on climate change but the wider context was of deeper Indo-French ties. “Be it trade and technology, innovation and investment, energy, education and enterprise, we want to give a boost to India-France ties,” Modi concluded.

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