Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday put weight behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “strong leadership” in uniting the European Union at a time the economic grouping showed signs of strain over the UK’s decision to exit it and the protectionist stance adopted by US President Donald Trump.
Modi, whose visit to Germany comes less than a week after Merkel provided the strongest indication yet that the EU and the US under President Trump were drifting apart, said India would play a positive role in boosting unity in the grouping.
Modi’s public support comes at a crucial time for Merkel, who has been fighting secessionist tendencies within the bloc since Britain decided to leave the 28-member grouping through a referendum in June last year.
The prime minister praised Merkel’s “strong leadership” and said a EU-focused vision is what the world needed. He also said a global order based on democracy is the need of the hour, in an interconnected and interdependent world.
“EU unity, proactiveness and strong relations with other countries is extremely important for global development. We want the EU to become stronger and India will play a positive role towards that through the medium of Germany,” he told reporters at a joint briefing with Merkel, who hosts Chinese Premier Li Keqiang tomorrow.
The visit by Asian leaders in quick succession have led to the western media calling it an “Asian pivot” to Europe and Germany, the most important pillar of the EU now that Britain was preparing to exit the largest single market.
Responding to a question, Modi said India and Germany were “made for each other”. He said the two countries share the values of innovation and democracy and these values were “a blessing for mankind”.
He explained the huge synergy that exists between German capabilities and Indian requirements.
Merkel last week said that reliable ties forged since the end of World War II “are to some extent over.” Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel followed her and blasted the US, saying the Trump administration’s “short-sighted policies... stand against the interest of the European Union”.
The remarks came soon after G7 and NATO summits, where news reports suggested that not all was well between her and Trump, who is leading the US towards a more protectionist stance on economic issues and has called for NATO to pay for their share of expenditure of the Atlantic military alliance.
Also, during the presidential election in France, the other key member of the EU, Trump tacitly backed the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and her vocal support to leave the EU. But she lost the election earlier this month.
The US and Germany are also not on the same page on climate change issue. Trump has vowed to walk away from the historic Paris deal while Merkel supports the agreement.
“Europe and the world are facing lots of challenges and to fight those, India believes, the world needs the strong leadership of Chancellor Merkel,” Modi added.
Merkel said that Europe must “take our fate into our own hands” and added that it should step up as a diplomatic player on the international stage.
“The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days,” she repeated today.
“Others,” in this case, seems to be a euphemism; Merkel was clearly talking about the US, according to The Washington Post.
Soon after her comments, Trump swiftly blasted Germany over trade imbalance. “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for US. This will change(sic),” he tweeted.
Merkel, however, had also said Germany’s relationship with the US was of “outstanding importance” but it must also engage with other important nations.
“We live in a globalised world and India...is a partner,” she said.
“India wants the world not just to be interconnected but also that it should be sensibly run,” Merkel said, endorsing a trade deal in the works between India and the European Union.
Germany is the largest trading partner for India in the EU and one of the leading sources of foreign direct investment into the country.