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German, Danish visits to India to focus on climate change, Ukraine and China

 German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. File

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. File
| Photo Credit: AP

Partnering with India on climate change mitigation and energy transitions will be at the top of agenda during two big visits from Europe this weekend, as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the Danish Crown Prince travel to India for talks. Mr. Scholz’s visit, his first since he became Chancellor last year, will focus on environmental cooperation, as well as business and skilled labour migration. Germany’s Ambassador to India said that the visit will focus on geopolitical issues as well, with the year-long Russian war in Ukraine, and difficulties in dealing with China at the forefront of discussions between Chancellor Scholz and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The two big visits will kick off a busy diplomatic season in Delhi, with the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Finance Ministers’ meeting and the Ministry of External Affairs’s (MEA) annual Raisina Dialogue set to follow them next week.

“In a difficult international environment, we see India as a valuable partner,” said German Ambassador Philip Ackerman giving details of Mr. Scholz’s travel, where he will visit Delhi on February 25 and Bengaluru on February 26. Mr. Scholz will be accompanied by a 12-person business delegation of companies keen to expand business opportunities in India, particularly in India’s renewable energy sector. Sources said that he is also likely to discuss the possibility of India joining the “Climate Club” set up during the G7 meeting in Bavaria last year, which invites “climate-ambitious” countries to work together on limiting global warming, accelerating net-zero carbon emissions by or around 2050 and decarbonising industry. Thus far, India has committed to net-zero emission targets by 2070 only.

The Ambassador said that Mr. Scholz would also brief PM Modi on his recent visit to China, and about the focus of Germany’s Indo-Pacific strategy on Indian cooperation. In addition, given that the Chancellor would arrive in India a day after the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, talks are likely to discuss their respective stands on the issue. India has thus far refused to criticise Russia, or join sanctions imposed by Germany and other EU countries, the U.S. and U.K. In a considerable shift from last year however, Mr. Ackerman said that Germany has no opinion on India’s continued increase in purchase of Russian oil, that has grown 30-fold in the past year.

“India buying oil is none of our business. What we would like to see is more Indian engagement with the Ukraine issue,” Mr. Ackerman told journalists, adding Germany had reached out to India to vote for the UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution against Russia, but accepts it is “India’s decision to make”.

The visit of Danish Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary (February 26-March 1) is likely to focus more on climate change and less on geopolitics, said officials, given their ceremonial role. However, the Danish royals, who are visiting Delhi and Chennai, will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and the Ministers for Environment and Climate, Energy and Utilities along with other officials and a business delegation comprising at least 38 companies, of which 12 work on water issues, and 26 are renewable energy businesses, focusing on wind power and green hydrogen, said Danish Ambassador Freddy Svane.

“To succeed in global climate change goals, the whole world has to work together. But we need India in particular for scale – for both its size and population, in order to make futuristic technologies, including green hydrogen and ethanol sustainable,” Mr. Svane said at another briefing in the capital.

During the Danish Prince’s visit, the two countries will discuss cooperation on dealing with stubble management techniques developed in Denmark, where stubble burning was banned in the 1980s. Mr. Svane said the partnerships would lead to better ties, lower pollution and earn revenue for farmers by producing ethanol. The two countries will also announce an India-Europe sustainability conclave during the visit. In Chennai, the Danish delegation will discuss plans for a “energy island” announced in 2020 during PM Modi’s Nordic visit. The Ambassador said that tender documents for offshore wind power capacity are in the process of being prepared, and would lead to about 4 GWs of installed capacity on the identified island between India and Sri Lanka.

The Danish envoy cited a recent survey of Danish companies, many of which have chosen to invest in Tamil Nadu. “India is no longer just market, it is a prime destination, where our companies are leading the way in creating jobs,” he said, drawing a comparison with China which was unfavourably cited by companies in the survey by the national chamber of commerce.

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