Christian Wagner, Senior Fellow, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)
Michael Koch, Special envoy to Afghanistan & Pakistan, German Foreign Office
Dr Angela Stanzel, Policy Fellow for the Asia and China Programme, ECFR
On 13 April, ECFR Berlin organized a BCM on the occasion of India’s Prime Minister Narendrar Modi visiting Germany. India expert Christian Wagner, Senior Fellow at SWP and Michael Koch, special envoy to Afghanistan & Pakistan of the German Foreign Office, contributed their views.
The discussion touched on Modi’s reforms which were announced since his Election in May 2014, most importantly replacing the planning commission by another body to streamline policies in the relationship of federal states to the central government. Modi is getting rid of the remains of India’s socialist system. India’s new focus seems to be to improve the economic environment for both domestic and foreign business.
In terms of foreign policy, participants discussed Modi’s strong interest in improving relations with countries far away from India rather than in its immediate neighbourhood. Pakistan is a case in point. But as India is trying to become a global player at eye level with big powers such as the US, it cannot continue to ignore its immense problems with Pakistan.
Most participants agreed that India-China relations are less antagonistic than it might seem: yes, there is competition but there is also a high willingness to cooperate with each other. China inviting India to join AIIB is a recent example. India quickly joined AIIB confirming the structural ambivalence of its China policy. Thus Modi’s foreign policy is pragmatic and mainly driven by economic interests – much like China’s.
Lastly, India-Iran relations were evoked as offering much potential to be further improved. If the Iran nuclear deal goes through, there will be a great and positive impact on developments in South Asia as a whole.