India and Germany: Future Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

Priyanjali Simon is a Freelance Strategic Analyst. She has a Graduate Degree in Geopolitics and International Relations from Manipal Academy of Higher Education (India).  Areas of Interest: U.S. Foreign Policy, Indo-Pacific Affairs, European Union Affairs.

Bangalore, India \ Januar 2, 2021 | Analysis Article

On the 2nd of November, 2020, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced that the country would deploy a frigate to patrol the Indian Ocean next year. The Defence Minister’s statement was made ahead of India’s Foreign Secretary’s meeting with Germany’s Minister of State, Niels Annen. Conversations between the ministers focused on the importance of strengthening multilateral structures and shared priorities. Additionally, dialogues on Germany’s Indo-Pacific policy and how New Delhi can be finessed into Berlin’s Indo-Pacific stratagem were also discussed between the Foreign Secretary and other diplomats.

Germany is the second EU country, after France, to have a policy for the Indo-Pacific region.

The policy for this strategic region was announced on 1 September, 2020. A few of the policy’s dominant themes include Marine pollution, climate change, rule of law, migration, education and science and technology (S&T). Germany, though not a resident Indo-Pacific country, seeks to inject itself in this geo-strategic space by supporting rules and multipolarity.

Locating India in Germany’s Indo-Pacific Policy

Germany’s Indo-Pacific policy undoubtedly reveals its interest in being involved in Asia’s growth dynamics. In the process of identifying itself as a principal player, it has suggested opening dialogues with key countries in the region who are adding weightage to the changing geopolitics of the area. The German Foreign Ministry has revealed that it is keen on reaching out to New Delhi with regards to the Bay of Bengal initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation as well as through the Indian Ocean Rim Association, where its focus would be tuned towards maintaining maritime safety and disaster risk management.

The policy also reveals commercial undertones, as it outlines the fact that more than 90 percent of foreign trade passes through the Indian and Pacific Oceans and “a disruption to these maritime trade routes and thus to the supply chains to and from Europe would have serious consequences”. Additionally,  Germany has stated that it supports a substantive Code of Conduct between China and the ASEAN countries with regard to the South China Sea region. For India as well, ASEAN centrality in the Indo-Pacific is an important component for New Delhi, as illustrated in the keynote address delivered by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi at the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to India in 2019 demonstrates that both sides affirm their support for freedom of navigation under the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention for the Law of the Seas). In 2017, when Germany held its first Conference of Ambassadors to the Indian Ocean Region in Colombo, the then Foreign Secretary Dr S. Jaishankar was invited to address it. While Germany has recognized India as a key Indo-Pacific power, it previously had not engaged in ministerial talks with New Delhi. However, India’s Foreign Secretary meeting with his German counterpart signifies a steady start to opening avenues of discussions about the Indo-Pacific region and how the two countries could possibly cooperate with each other in the future. Be that as it may, vital entities such as defence cooperation essentially hinge on Germany’s efforts and how it decides to factor India into its manoeuvres in the region.

The Indo-Pacific document mentions India 57 times, while ASEAN has been mentioned 66 times, which demonstrates the importance of ASEAN countries over India; however democracies such as Japan, Australia and India should not be discounted when Berlin decides to progressively diversify its policy towards the region.

More importantly, it is essential to understand that the policy is catered to serve its own national interests such as furthering its economic engagement in the region through trade and serves as a gateway to protect its trade. The trajectory of cooperation and bilateral engagement between the two countries is yet to be determined depending on how Germany factors India into its landscape of strategy in the Indo-Pacific, as it starts immersing itself more in the region.

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