Germany’s Scholz is in India to push for an EU trade agreement

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, arrived in India on Saturday with the goal of strengthening business relations between the fourth- and fifth-largest economies in the world and pushing for progress on an EU trade agreement despite disagreements regarding Ukraine.

“We want to further strengthen our bilateral relationship with India and our cooperation on global issues, such as mitigating climate change and transforming our economies in a just, green and sustainable way,” Scholz told the Times of India in an interview.

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“There is huge potential for intensified cooperation, in sectors such as renewables, hydrogen, mobility, pharma, digital economy, and many more,” Scholz told the paper.

Scholz met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi while being accompanied by officials from significant German companies like Siemens. He was then scheduled to travel to Bengaluru to meet with German software companies like SAP.

Officials stated that Scholz would push for advancement in the European Union-India trade negotiations, which have long been stalled by differences over tariffs and worker entry to Europe.

There is still “quite a distance” between the two parties, according to a German official in Berlin.

“Some people want to complete this by the end of this year. Others say that even summer next year is ambitious,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The two sides also differ on the Ukraine war, with India refusing to condemn Russia’s invasion and ramping up purchases of oil from its biggest supplier of arms.

“If we want to work together effectively on global challenges, we need a solid, reliable and rules-based international order. Attacking your neighbour, seizing territory by force, committing terrible war crimes, cannot be tolerated,” Scholz said in the interview.

“With India we share the foundation of democracy and the respect of international law. Together, we stand for state sovereignty and peaceful conflict resolution worldwide,” he said.

The 64-year-old Scholz added that the Group of 20 should keep up its pressure on Russia while India is currently holding the chair and keep sending a “strong message.”

Germany, France, and the United Kingdom insisted on Friday that any concluding statement from the G20 finance ministers meeting in Bengaluru, which is scheduled to end on Saturday, must also denounce Russia’s conflict.

A second German official claimed that India was secretly communicating with Russia in “clear terms” to convey its displeasure with the conflict.

“Last autumn in a meeting with (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin, Prime Minister Modi expressed himself in a very pronounced way: ‘(This is) no time for war’,” the official said.

In his discussions with the Hindu nationalist premier, Scholz might bring up issues related to minority and press liberties in the largest democracy in the world.

The BBC’s local offices were raided by Indian tax officials last week as part of a rights group response to a documentary by the British broadcaster about Modi’s involvement in 2002’s deadly sectarian riots.

The Indian administration denied any connection between the two.

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