Germany’s strategic ties with India important for Indo-Pacific: German defence minister

New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with German Federal Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius before a bilateral meeting at Manekshaw Centre, in New Delhi, Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh)(PTI06_06_2023_000050B)

The German industry is in a “good place” in the race for India’s project to procure six stealth submarines, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said on Tuesday after holding talks with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh that focused on joint development of key military platforms and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

People familiar with the talks said the Indian side apprised Pistorius about China’s aggressive posturing along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and also conveyed New Delhi’s apprehensions over possible risks if Pakistan gets critical defence technologies by the West.

After the talks, Pistorius told reporters that Berlin’s strategic ties with New Delhi became more important in the context of the unpredictable situation in the Indo-Pacific, in comments that came amid growing global concerns over China’s increasing military-muscle flexing in the region.

He also indicated Germany’s approach to intensify defence ties with India while noting Europe’s reluctance to deliver weapons to India that he said made New Delhi look towards Russia.

“We are now realising that Russia’s star is sinking, to put it that way,” he said, highlighting the need for a fresh approach at defence ties with India.

“Of course we also talked about the war between Russia and Ukraine. The war has repercussions up to here, in every corner of the world. That’s no surprise. And India is trying very hard to significantly and quickly reduce its dependency on Russia for armaments, which is currently at 60 per cent,” he said.

Talking about the situation in the Indo-Pacific, Pistorius said Germany and Europe concentrated too much on economic relations with China without putting adequate focus on the political implications.

The defence ministry said Singh stressed that India and Germany could build a more “symbiotic relationship” based on shared goals and complementarity of strength, namely skilled workforce and competitive costs from India and high technologies and investment from Germany.

“I think we should, and we can and we ought to do more in that region (Indo-Pacific) in partnership with India. Because we are approaching times we can’t really predict what’s going to happen in the next few years,” Pistorius told the media in German.

“And we need strategic partners like Indonesia, like India, for example, to make sure that the Law of Free navigation, and the free trading routes will be achievable during the next decade too,” he said.

Referring to the submarine project, Pistorius said that the process relating to the proposed procurement of six submarines is not yet completed and that German industry is at a “good place” in the race for the contract.

Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) is set to bid for the Rs 43,000 crore project. “We are talking about a deal of TKMS..about six submarines but of course the procedure is not finished yet but I think the German industry is at a good place in that race,” he said.

“We support the ‘Make in India’ principle favoured by India. We think that’s right,” the German defence minister said.

In June 2021, the defence ministry cleared the mega project to domestically build six conventional submarines for the Indian Navy.

The submarines will be built under the much-talked-about strategic partnership model that allows domestic defence manufacturers to join hands with leading foreign defence majors to produce high-end military platforms to reduce import dependence.

Pistorius is visiting the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd on Wednesday and a possible collaboration between it and the TKMS may figure during his meetings with the officials of the defence public sector undertaking.

An official said the bidding process for the mega submarine project closes in August.

Officials said the submarine project figured in the talks between the two defence ministers.

In his talks with Pistorius, Defence Singh stressed that India and Germany could build a “more symbiotic” defence relationship based on shared goals and complementarity of strength and invited German investments in defence corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

The two defence ministers also reviewed regional security situations including China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific and other regions, officials said.

Pistorius arrived in Delhi on Monday on a four-day visit to India. It is the first visit of a German defence minister to India since 2015.

The defence ministry said the Indian defence industry could participate in the supply chains of the German defence industry and add value to the ecosystem, besides contributing to supply chain resilience.

It is learnt that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its implications on the world figured in the talks.

“We talked about the fact that our connection, our strategic partnership, should and must gain more momentum against the backdrop of current developments in the region, but also worldwide,” Pistorius said.

He said defence cooperation is a pillar of this partnership between the two countries in a “special way precisely because of our joint strategic partnership”.

Pistorius said both sides will conduct a military exercise next year which will see deployment of naval units in the Indo-Pacific.

“There will be an exercise in Goa. This is important for several reasons. We also confirmed it,” he said.

Before travelling to India from Indonesia, Pistorius told German’s state-owned broadcaster DW that India’s continuing reliance on Russian weapons is not in Germany’s interest.

The defence ministry said both the ministers reviewed the ongoing bilateral defence cooperation activities and explored ways to enhance the collaboration, particularly the defence industrial partnership.

“The defence minister highlighted the opportunities that have opened up in the defence production sector, including the possibilities for German investments in the two defence industrial corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu,” it said.

“The Indian defence industry could participate in the supply chains of the German defence industry and add value to the ecosystem, besides contributing to supply chain resilience,” it said.

India and Germany have had a strategic partnership since 2000, which has been strengthened through inter-governmental consultations since 2011 at the level of heads of government.

“Had fruitful discussions with the German Defence Minister, Mr Boris Pistorius. His passion for Yoga is commendable. We discussed regional issues and our shared priorities. We also agreed to further strengthen defence co-operation between India & Germany,” Defence Minister Singh tweeted.

Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane and Chief of Defence Staff Gen Anil Chauhan were part of the Indian delegation.

From the German side, State Secretary from Ministry of Defence Benedikt Zimmer, apart from several other senior officials joined Pistorius.

Ahead of the talks, the German defence minister was accorded a tri-service guard of honour.

Pistorius is scheduled to travel to Mumbai on Wednesday where he is scheduled to visit the headquarters of the Western Naval Command and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited


  • Pazdin Dalal

    A marketing expert from Mumbai takes interest in covering defence and geopolitical issues. He has also been active in covering growth of private defence sector in India.

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