Germany‘s fascination with India dates back centuries. Initially, the main focus was on studying the history, culture and language of the country. Despite the undisputed merits of German poets and authors like Heine, philosophers like Schlegel and indologists like Max Mueller, this altruistic approach is now a thing of the past. Since the year 2000, a strategic partnership has been in place between Germany and India. After her first visit in 2007, German Chancellor Merkel returned to India again in May 2011. The course was set for the further development of German - Indian relations during the fi rst bilateral government consultations.
However, politics can only ever provide the framework for our bilateral relations. As important as the political relationship is, the relationship between Germany and India thrives on the bonds between the people of both countries. It is the concrete projects and initiatives that inject life into a strategic partnership. A rich exchange with India that has grown across decades in the fields of culture, science and education is already contributing to this. Our economic relationship with India has also developed extremely positively. The target is to achieve an annual trade volume of 20 billion Euros by 2012. Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Singh reaffirmed this target during their meeting on 31 May 2011 in Delhi.
In order to raise the profile of the involvement of many German companies and institutions in India even further and celebrate the 60th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, the idea was floated in 2009 to hold a celebratory ‘Year of Germany’ in India under the motto "Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities". The range of events being held from September 2011 onwards in seven Indian megacities - Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Pune - will help to bring Germany closer to an even wider and predominantly younger audience.
This is made even more important by India‘s role as an emerging world power. India is a democratic nation which is home to one sixth of the world‘s population and whose economic development since the start of liberalisation in the early 1990s has been progressing with great success. Consequently, India is now striving to play a greater role in the United Nations Security Council and in other global forums like the G20. A quick look at the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is enough to remind us why India is so important to us as an anchor of stability in the region.
However, we need to face the facts: Germany shares this interest with others. India‘s growing markets and increasing political importance makes the country an attractive proposition for many. The issue here is not just products, but particularly also ideas and innovative solutions. Germany has a lot to offer in this competition, for example in the fields of climate protection, renewable energies, infrastructure, vocational training and science. The existing cooperations between Germany and India already provide a lot of common ground, and the ‘Year of Germany’ in India will add plenty more. We hope in particular to create a spark of interest for all these innovative solutions from Germany among the twenty to forty year-olds in India‘s rapidly growing middle class and to highlight opportunities to embark on an even closer cooperation in all areas.
Held under the guiding theme of "CitySpaces", the season of events during the ‘Year of Germany’ in India will focus particularly on the challenges and opportunities of increasing urbanisation. Rising numbers of people in India live and work in cities – today their number already stands at 590 million. This presents the country with huge challenges. For example, India is seeing an enormous increase in new car registrations. In order to prevent their roads from grinding to a standstill, India‘s cities urgently need an expansion of efficient local public transport systems. In addition, comprehensive basic medical care needs to be provided for the rapidly growing urban population. The same applies to supplies of water and electricity. After all, cities and urban quarters must not be allowed to degene-rate into cultural wasteland. We are hoping to present a number of innovative approaches to solving these and many other challenges that will define the future.
Major cities will be hosting the different stations of our ‘Year of Germany’ in India. They all will have interesting stories to tell. These stories deal with traditions and modern times and with cultural identity in a globalised world. We will celebrate the start of the ‘Year of Germany’ in all seven cities on 23rd and 24th September. In the long term, we can make a contribution towards ensuring that Germany and India jointly tackle the most important challenges of a globalised world and work together to develop strategies for solutions from within a framework of open dialogue.
© GermanyContact India 5 / 2011