Indo-German ties set for a quantum leap

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New Delhi, Oct 29: Relations between India and Germany are poised for a quantum jump with the two major democracies holding high-level discussions here tomorrow on strenghening cooperation in diverse areas, ranging from trade and investment to culture and energy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who arrives here tonight on her maiden visit to India, will hold discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on various aspects of bilateral relations.

After discussions between the two leaders and delegation-level talks, the two countries will sign about 12 agreements for cooperation in various areas, mainly trade and investment.

She will call on President Pratibha Patil and Vice-President Hamid Ansari and also meet External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Leader of Opposition L K Advani.

The German Chancellor who begins her three-day State visit tomorrow with a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan, will also hold a business meeting with representatives of Indian industry, including the CII/FICCI/ASSOCHAM.

Ms Merkel will have a packed schedule tomorrow and on Wednesday afternoon, she will fly to Mumbai for interaction with business leaders.

The agreements that the two countries will sign, will also include one on 'Mutual Protection of Classified Information'. Germany's Ambassador to India, Bernd Muetzelburg, described the visit as part of the framework of the Strategic Partnership which had been established in 2000. Ms Merkel will be accommpanied by top leaders of German Industry, including Seimens and Lufthansa.

Gernman officials here said they believe that the security issue should not remain confined to military alone but also involve aspects like the environmental security which would also come up during the discussions.

The German Chancellor is also scheduled to meet members of the civic society and intellectuals. She will address a CEO's Round-Table of Indo-German Chambers of Commerce.

Describing the current phase of relations as ''the most scuccessful'', the Ambassador said bilateral trade had doubled during the past three years--from five billion Euros in 2004 to ten billion in 2007.

''Investment relations are thriving...'' he said, while adding that the two democracies share lot of common values and interests, including the challenges of terrorism to peace and security.

There would be intensified exchange of information on Defence.

Discussions would also focus on reform of multi-lateral bodies like the UN and the UNSC.

Both India and Germany are members of the G-4, along with Japan and Brazil, which are bidding for a parmenent seat at the UNSC.

One of the main events of the German Chancellor's programme tomorrow will be flagging off of a 'special train' showcasing scientific advancement during the past few years. The train that will criss-cross about 60 towns and cities in seven months, is aimed at giving access to young people to the evolution of science and technology.

The special train, 'Science Express', is a joint venture between the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Indian Railways and and Max Planck Society, a German research organisation.

Germany, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), is in favour of the Indo-US nuclear deal but wants India to sign the CTBT.

A senior German official said India has the legitimate right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. However, Germany would like to wait till it sees the final outcome of the deal and India's negotiations with the IAEA.

Germany as a State would be able to decide (on its stand) once it knew all the details, the official said.

Asked whether the issue would come up at the discussions between the German Chancellor and Indian leaders, the official said until all the parameters were in place, the issue would probably not be dealt with.

The German Ambassador said their government favours broad-basing of the G-4 by including some African countries like South Africa to give the grouping more say for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

The issue was much more complicated than it was anticipated. ''We have to work together for broad-basing the concept,'' he said, adding that it would be very wrong if the countries were divided.

He reiterated Germany's support for India's candidature.

UNI

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