Germany’s new ambassador to India, Michael Steiner, makes a strong case for India's claim for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. He also told DW both countries were not fulfilling their true potential.
From April 2010 to March 2012, Steiner served as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan for the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He then became Germany's new ambassador to India.
DW: So how do you envisage bilateral relations between India and Germany especially growth on the trade front?
Michael Steiner: Germany and India have become important strategic partners on the global stage. Our friendship and trust has grown manifold. But both countries are far from achieving their true capability. The EU is the biggest trading partner for India and Germany is the biggest European trading partner. You might know that our political leaders, Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh and Chancellor (Angela) Merkel have set the target for the end of this year to reach the trade volume of 20 billion euros (25 billion US dollars).
How about the Free Trade Agreement (FTA)?
I am very much looking forward to what the Commerce Minister, Anand Sharma has envisaged with his colleague in the (European) Commission - that is, to finalize the EU-India FTA by the end of the year. That will give a long-term perspective and direction to EU-India co-operation. I think, if we have the settlement of this agreement, that will be a powerful signal despite these gloomy perceptions and a sign that we mean business to allow more trade and investment.
You have supported India's claim for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
Both Germany and India were serious contenders of being granted a permanent seat in the Security Council. It is very clear that India should have a permanent seat in the Security Council. Germany has the same request. If you look at our contribution, we think it's legitimate that we foster also in this direction, but the point is for us that we, have, in the long term want to achieve a common European foreign policy and, of course, see this also in the aspect of in speaking with one voice also in the Security Council.
Before this appointment you were the German government's Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and coordinated the preparation of the Bonn II conference on Afghanistan in December 2011. How is the situation there?
In Afghanistan, we know we will not achieve an ideal situation soon. But the situation is better than many had feared. The process of transition works. The international community has psychologically made important its commitment to stay even after the troops have left after 2014.
We might not create a paradise ….it will take pretty long until Afghanistan's wounds are healed. But we have a device and a strategy. And, for the first time this strategy, under the given circumstances, might be successful.
What role is there for Pakistan?
Pakistan in the context of Afghanistan must take a position that helps the Afghan government, especially in the political process to get progress. There are promises which I hope will be honored. When it comes to its own internal security situation, everyone has interests that the country gets back economically on its feet. So we need to help them politically and economically to overcome their current internal crisis.
Interview: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Richard Connor