India, Germany strengthen partnership with defense cooperation pact

India, Germany strengthen partnership with defense cooperation pact

Mandeep Singh

Germany and India added a stronger defense element to their strategic partnership with the signing of a much-anticipated defense cooperation agreement when Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met with her German counterpart, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, in Berlin on February 12, 2019.

The meeting was part of a two-day visit by Sitharaman to Germany in which she also met with defense industry leaders and gave a speech at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

The agreement, dubbed Implementing Arrangement on Enhanced Defense and Defense Industry Cooperation, promises to “further strengthen military-to-military engagement as well as defence industry and R&D [research and development] linkages,” reported a statement from India’s Ministry of Defense. (Pictured: Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, left, shakes hands with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.)

The bilateral defense ties were characterized as “an important facet” of the Indian-German strategic partnership by the defense ministers, the statement added, in agreement with a statement from Germany’s Defense Ministry.

“Both countries have a strategic partnership that has been around for almost 20 years and has developed steadily,” the German statement said. “In addition to the regular exchange on topics such as cyber policy and the fight against terror, cooperation in the area of security policy has intensified, parallel to missions of the United Nations as in Lebanon, in South Sudan, in Libya or in Western Sahara involving German and Indian Soldiers.”

Berlin and New Delhi established a strategic partnership by adopting the Agenda for the Indo-German Partnership in the 21st Century in May 2000. The Joint Declaration of Intent on German-Indian Cooperation on Cyber Policy was signed in May 2017, which formalized annual German-Indian cyber consultations. Both governments in 2017 also agreed to hold regular meetings of the Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism.

In her meeting with German industrialists, Sitharaman was accompanied by leaders of Indian defense firms, her ministry reported. She urged the two groups to broaden their collaboration in defense manufacturing within the framework of the Make in India initiative, launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 to encourage manufacturing and foreign direct investment in his country.

Of interest to both groups of industrialists are the modernization needs of India’s military, which include six diesel-electric submarines equipped with air independent propulsion (AIP), approved for procurement by India’s Ministry of Defence in early 2019. The acquisition has an estimated value of more than U.S. $5.5 billion. While Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems appears to be the supplier of choice, also being considered are suppliers in Sweden, France and Russia.

AIP is a technology that enables a diesel-electric submarine to stay submerged for two weeks, as opposed to 48 hours. Under Make in India, much of the manufacturing would need to occur at shipyards in India.

In her talk at the German Council on Foreign Relations, Sitharaman spoke about India’s defense priorities and engagements “with the aim to contribute toward a secure, stable and peaceful environment and enable greater prosperity for all,” her ministry said, emphasizing the need for India and Germany “to build on the commonality of assessments on strategic issues and work together to strengthen the rules-based world order.”

Mandeep Singh is a FORUM contributor reporting from New Delhi, India.