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India’s role is imperative in diversification of global supply chains & Berlin’s strategy: German Envoy

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New Delhi: The current global challenges across the spectrum cannot be solved without India and therefore Delhi plays a critical role in Germany’s newly released Indo-Pacific strategy that aims at diversifying supply chains without being dependent on just one source, German Ambassador to India Walter Lindner told ET.

“Germany has a policy for Africa and policy for Latin America. However, we did not have any policy for Indo-Pacific region as a whole. This region houses world’s 33 mega cities, a young and dynamic population and sea lanes of communication that are responsible for a significant part of the global trade. It was time that Berlin adopted a strategy for the region,” Lindner told ET in an exclusive interaction days after Berlin released its Indo-Pacific strategy.

This was Lindner’s maiden in person interview since the outbreak of Covid. “The region has three nuclear powers. Any attempts to alter rule of law has implications. Whatever happens in the region impacts Europe and it impacts Germany. Therefore, strengthening the rule of law to ensure free and transparent trade is essential,” the envoy noted in a thin veiled reference to Beijing’s attempts to dominate world order.

“The Covid situation made it clear that supply chains cannot be dominated by anyone. There must be a diversification of supply chains. Germany favours diversification of supply chains and India plays a critical role in that. No global challenges in today’s world can be solved without India’s participation,” noted Lindner, who had in the past served as the Foreign Secretary.

Pointing out that the German Indo-Pacific strategy is not anti-China the envoy, however, was of the opinion that there cannot be hegemon and what is needed is a “multipolar system of equals”. Germany, as Europe’s biggest economy, favours supply chains which are diversified and sustainable, Lindner pointed out.

The Indo-Pacific strategy was released last week by German Foreign Ministry. Berlin’s strategy also suggested opening dialogue with institutions where India plays a key role — Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation and Indian Ocean Rim Association — in the areas of business and maritime safety, as well as disaster risk management.

“As an internationally active trading nation and proponent of a rules-based international order, Germany – embedded in the European Union – has a great interest in participating in Asia’s growth dynamics and in being involved in shaping the Indo-Pacific region, as well as in upholding global norms in regional structures,” suggested the strategy outlining Germany’s key principle for the region.

The strategy also contains veiled but firm criticism of Chinese actions in the South China Sea and its fallout on global trade in what mirrors India’s position on the issue. “More than 90 percent of the world’s foreign trade is conducted by sea, a large part of which via the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Up to 25 percent of the world’s maritime trade passes through the Strait of Malacca. More than 2000 ships per day transport goods between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea via this bottleneck. A disruption to these maritime trade routes and thus to the supply chains to and from Europe would have serious consequences for the prosperity and supply of our population,” the strategy pointed out.

“In the Indo-Pacific region, too, it is not the law of the strong that must prevail, but the strength of the law. This also applies to the shipping routes through the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as a comprehensive maritime regulatory and cooperation framework and the freedoms of navigation enshrined therein are universal. Germany is prepared to promote the enforcement of rules and norms in the region.”

Millions of jobs in Germany depend on these trade and investment relations. In view of this great potential, Germany has a vital interest in open markets in the region, according to the strategy. “The federal government firmly believes that rules-based free trade enhances prosperity on both sides.”

Berlin stated it supports a substantive and legally binding Code of Conduct between China and the ASEAN members-states for the South China Sea (SCS) region. It is no secret that Chinese action in the SCS including artificial island building has not only rattled some ASEAN countries but several other countries whose trade passes through the region.

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