In an exclusive interview with TOI‘S Sachin ParasharAhead of Saturday’s meeting with Modi, Scholz sought to address some of India’s concerns about challenges to the rules-based order in Asia, saying Germany would show military presence in the region with increased deployment, working with partners like-minded like India. He said that never before has there been such a commitment to the Indo-Pacific from Germany. While Germany has agreed to supply Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Scholz said Germany would be concerned about not becoming a party to the war and that there must be no war between Russia and NATO.
Chancellor, this is your first visit to India since you took office. What are the areas you want to focus on in the bilateral relationship and are there any specific aspects you are looking at from the visit?
I am grateful for this opportunity to visit India and look forward to meeting Prime Minister Modi again. India is the largest democratic country in the world, and together with Germany among the top five economies in the world, and a strong and powerful partner of Germany and the European Union. Germany is committed to further strengthening our bilateral relationship and our cooperation on global issues, such as climate change mitigation and transforming our economies in a just, green and sustainable way. There is huge potential for intensified cooperation, in areas such as renewable energies, hydrogen, mobility, pharmaceuticals, the digital economy and many others. We can learn a lot from each other. Without key countries like India, we will not be able to limit global temperature rise enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target and achieve a green transformation. We also aim to further deepen our business relationship which is why I travel with a high-level business delegation. In this sense, with a balanced, ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial future trade and investment agreement between India and the EU, we hope that both sides will benefit even more, which is why we also focus on this issue. and we strongly support the ongoing negotiations.
This visit also takes place during the Indian presidency of the G20. Please tell us about your expectations from the Indian presidency at a time when the world is still reeling under the aftermath of the pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
I congratulate India on taking over the presidency of the G20. The G20 is a key forum for multilateral cooperation and global governance. Germany stands ready to support the Indian presidency in delivering ambitious and concrete results on major global challenges, such as ensuring strong and sustainable growth, tackling climate change and promoting sustainable development. The brutal and unjustified Russian war of aggression and the large-scale invasion of Ukraine are flagrant violations of the rules-based international order and the UN Charter, and undermine the very foundations of the rule of law-based international order. This war affects us all – imagine a country invading its neighbor becoming an accepted norm! At the last G20 summit in Bali in November 2022, the G20 sent a strong message on this matter. It will be important to build on this during India’s presidency of the G20. In particular, the G20 must continue to address the global implications of Russia’s war of aggression.
India has said it wants to speak for the global south as the developing world has been hardest hit by food, fuel and fertilizer shortages resulting from the conflict. Prime Minister Modi recently chaired a virtual meeting with developing countries to discuss their concerns. What do you think of this Indian initiative and what kind of support can India expect from Germany in efforts to mitigate the effects of the global food and energy crises?
We are convinced that inclusive international cooperation and unity are key to managing the consequences of Russia’s war of aggression. So I congratulate Prime Minister Modi for bringing together the particularly affected countries. The G20 under the Indian Presidency this year can play a crucial role in this regard, including reaching out to our partners beyond the G20. Under the German presidency of the G7 last year, we launched the “Global Alliance for Food Security” which is already providing support to the most food insecure countries. And there is much to discuss and act on beyond food and energy, such as the global financing of architecture, commerce, healthcare and education. To face these challenges, we must look forward together. India, for example, is leading efforts in transforming food and agricultural systems, also reaching out internationally, with much to learn and share. Germany is leading global efforts for parallel decarbonization and socially just economic development. India is an important partner and leader in these efforts, including in gaining global support. We are ready to further deepen our existing partnership.
The differences between India and Europe on how to handle Russia have grown. You said that new sanctions are expected around the anniversary of War in Ukraine. India does not want to see sanctions that could further complicate the global economy. Russia has also emerged as one of India’s major oil suppliers. Isn’t there a risk that more sanctions could lead to more economic volatility globally? Also, what do you think about India’s stance on Russia?
The world is becoming increasingly multipolar. In the future, there will be many powerful nations. If we are to work together effectively on global challenges, we need a robust, reliable and rules-based international order. Attacking one’s neighbour, taking territory by force, committing terrible war crimes, cannot be tolerated. If we don’t fight back, anyone could be next. With India we share the foundations of democracy and respect for international law. Together, we support state sovereignty and the peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world. We strongly support the message that neo-imperialism will not prevail, which history has proved many times. Together with many international partners, we have enacted sanctions against Russia for two reasons: First, to limit Russia’s ability to sustain its brutal war of aggression. And second, impose the costs of this war on those who facilitate and benefit from it. We are taking great care to ensure that our sanctions do not have negative effects on the global economy and, in particular, do not affect food or energy exports to third countries. On the contrary, Russia is using food and energy prices as a weapon, including through the targeted destruction of Ukrainian farms, ports and roads.
India has accused Europe of not paying enough attention to the Indo-Pacific at a time when the region has faced severe security challenges from an increasingly assertive China. Germany now has an Indo-Pacific policy, but how far is it willing to go to ensure a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, especially in terms of political and security cooperation?
Germany is strengthening its partnership with the Indo-Pacific region as stipulated in the German Indo-Pacific policy guidelines. It is no coincidence that my first trip to the region as chancellor took me to Japan in April 2022. We held government consultations with India in May. India and Indonesia were partner countries at the G7 summit in Germany in June and I traveled to Vietnam and Singapore in November 2022, accompanied by a large German business delegation. Germany shares India’s interest in free shipping routes and respect for international law, in the region and beyond. To underline this, we deployed a frigate to the Indo-Pacific region in 2021, for the first time in 20 years. Our Air Force participated in Australian-led maneuvers last summer, demonstrating our interoperability with partners in the region. We will continue these deployments, showcasing military presence in the region and collaborating with like-minded partners like India in various different formats. Never before has there been such a German commitment to the Indo-Pacific. We also appreciate that we are advocating for the same goals in international climate policy and the energy transition. I would like to deepen this cooperation through an open and cooperative climate club and building new partnerships for a just energy transition, including with India and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Germany is a major player in global efforts to end conflict and restore economic stability. In his conversations with both Putin and Zelenskyy, Modi has offered support for any peace effort. Do you think India can play a role in ending the war?
Germany stands ready to support all these efforts to end this devastating war chosen and waged by Russia. In my telephone conversations with President Putin, I advocated an immediate end to Russian attacks, a complete withdrawal of Russian troops, and negotiations. Russia, on the other hand, one year into this war of aggression, still counts on a military victory, continues to destroy civilian infrastructure with no regard for human lives, including tens of thousands of its own young soldiers who will never return more home from their families. Russia must live up to its responsibilities as a member of the United Nations Security Council and respect the UN Charter. This is the basic starting point for a meaningful diplomatic effort.
Germany has supplied Ukraine with weapons in a stunning reversal of its longstanding policy of not sending weapons to conflict zones. But now Germany has even agreed to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Won’t this make Germany or NATO directly involved in the conflict? What if this leads to a serious escalation? The Russians have not ruled out the use of nuclear weapons in case of defeat.
Germany has assisted Ukraine with more than 13 billion euros for humanitarian support and reconstruction of destroyed cities, infrastructure, support for the economy. More than 1 million Ukrainians have found refuge in Germany. Yes, we also supply arms and ammunition so that Ukraine can defend itself, a right enshrined in the UN Charter. We do this in close coordination and in a consistent manner with our allies. The deliveries are a clear sign of our solidarity with Ukraine and a clear message to Russian President Putin that attacking your neighbor will be unsuccessful. At the same time, we are careful not to become accomplices in the war. There must be no war between Russia and NATO.