Berlin, May 30: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday backed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's "strong leadership" in uniting the European Union at a time when the economic grouping was showing signs of strain post Brexit and over the protectionist policies of 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 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 bloc through a referendum in June last year. The prime minister praised her "strong leadership" and said a EU-focused vision is what the world needs.
"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.
Modi said India and Germany were "made for each other". Merkel last week had said that reliable ties forged since the end of World War II "are to some extent over." Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also 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 alliance. The two countries are also not on the same page on climate policies.
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 today repeated that Europe must "take our fate into our own hands" and went on to say that it should step up as a diplomatic player on the international stage.
In Washington, Trump swiftly reacted to Merkel's comments. Soon after her statement, Trump tweeted, "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)."
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. Germany is the largest trade partner for India in the European Union (EU) and one of the leading sources of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country.