Thursday, 20 November 2008

Germany wants greater Indian role to tackle recession

In his first-ever visit to India, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has a full agenda. In his conversations with counterpart Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday, Steinmeier will focus on the raging financial crisis , particularly as Germany slides into recession.

But closer home, it will be the instability in Afghanistan that will consume a lot of conversation with the Indian leadership . In an exclusive interview with TOI, Steinmeier said, “We would like to discuss the available options for increasing our support for the stabilization of South Asia and its trouble spots. There is also much we would like to accomplish bilaterally . Germany is deliberately building up its presence in India , for example in the areas of business and science.”

There has been a lot of talk that European nations want to get out of Afghanistan, using the “reconciliation” talks with the Taliban. It has, say sources, led to a kind of dissonance with the Americans whose presidentelect Barack Obama is determined to make Afghanistan a top foreign policy priority.

Steinmeier said there was some focus on getting Afghans in the frontlines, so the foreign troops could get out of direct combat. “It is crucial that our Afghan partners gradually take on more responsibility. As the Afghan government becomes more capable of providing security and stability, the presence of international troops can gradually be reduced and eventually ended,” he said. But he tried to dispel the notion that reconciliation talks were on with the Taliban. “Reconciliation will only be possible on the basis of the existing constitution and that the Taliban must renounce all use of violence as a precondition for serious negotiations . That’s why I caution not to misunderstand the willingness to engage in talks as a sign of weakness,” he said.

Germany has been hit by the financial crisis harder than most, and reports say it has officially slid into recession. During the recent ASEM and G-20 summits, one of the ideas that was discussed was the ceding of voting rights in the IMF to important emerging economies like India and China as well as opening up the Financial Stability Forum for these countries.

“The crisis underlines the need to improve the conditions for stable and transparent financial markets... the IMF along with the Financial Stability Forum should be given considerable influence when it comes to risk analysis, monitoring the stability of the system and the development of an early warning system,” the German minister said. While endorsing the results of last week’s G-20 summit , Steinmeier said the future lay in a permanent expansion of the G-8 . “It will be important to go beyond crisis management to discuss new conditions for the world economy as a whole with all the relevant global actors ... the format of the future will have to be a permanent expansion of the G-8 ,” he said.

But Germany will join the global cacophony to ask India to help break the deadlock in the Doha round of WTO talks. For everybody, it was India’s stonewalling that kept the world short of getting a deal on Doha.

“Bringing the WTO Doha Round to an end would be a significant impetus for the global economy. We should press ahead to reach agreement on the core arrangements in agriculture and industry. I am confident that India, with its growing influence , will also take on more responsibility ,” Steinmeier said.

Source: EconomicTimes

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