PM Modi in intense conversation with his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen

Modi's trip to Germany, Denmark, France is an opportunity to meet key European leaders and exchange notes about the consequences of the Russia-Ukraine conflict

India And Germany’s National Interest

It’s high time that the rest of the world stops infantilising both India and Germany – the two governments are quite capable of protecting their respective national interest.

Both have good, strong friendships with Russia. Both believe— at least India does, privately—that Russia had no business invading Ukraine and violating the territorial integrity of another sovereign nation. Prime Minister Modi unequivocally told Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov during his visit that Russia should find a way of stopping the war and beginning peace talks.

The big difference, of course, is in their public handling of the crisis. While Germany has been a strong supporter of the US-led punishment of Russia, India has remained far more neutral, refusing to add its voice to the general condemnation.

Certainly, like India, Germany also has a special relationship with Russia. It has often disagreed with the rest of Europe in maintaining a strong tie with Moscow; Berlin knows that if it were not for the Soviet Union in 1989, informally guaranteeing the reunification of its country, Berlin would still be a divided city, just like the country. As a close neighbour, Germany understands Russia’s stakes in investing in a stable Europe.

That’s why Chancellor Scholz backed his predecessor Angela Merkel in pushing back US efforts last year to sanction the Nordstream gas pipeline from Russia; the SDP, for some time, has advocated energy cooperation with Moscow as a means of bringing Russia into its fold.

According to Claudia Kemfert at the German Institute for Economic Research, the SDP’s recent determination to generate electricity only from renewable sources 2035 onwards is very welcome – especially because the share of Russian natural gas today constitutes 35 per cent of Germany’s total energy imports.

Only last year Germany paid 25 billion euros out of its total fossil fuel import bill worth 100 billion euros to Russia.

On the eve of Modi’s visit, Germany’s economy ministry said that it slashed its reliance on Russian energy imports – oil is down from 35 to 12 per cent, coal is down from 45 to 8 per cent and gas is down from 55 to 35 per cent. It promised to end coal deliveries by the end of autumn and “largely wean itself” off Russian gas by mid-2024.

But the question is, where are the alternative sources of energy going to come from?

Alternate Sources of Energy

US, as well as Saudi oil executives, are now saying that despite climbing oil prices, they are not likely to drill more in the short term to alleviate Europe’s crisis – especially if it is pressured to turn off the Russian tap – because they don’t know if they can sustain an oil price bust that is more than likely to follow the current boom.

Indian officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they are also asking their Western counterparts to help reopen the spigot from Iran if India is to stop buying from Russia altogether.

“You cannot sanction Iran and Venezuela and Russia’s oil, all at the same,” the official said. Moreover, they added, the diversification of Indian defence purchases away from Russia, is also expected to take some time.

Modi’s short stopover in France on the return journey home from Berlin and Copenhagen—where he will participate in the second Nordic summit, some of whom are NATO members, like Norway, and some want to become soon, like Sweden—will be an opportunity to exchange views with the newly re-elected French president Emmanuel Macron.

Certainly, the PM’s short trip to Europe is timely. The world is changing, India must take note of the change so that it can prepare for the challenges in the coming years and reorient its own foreign policy direction.