As his term comes to a close, the German Consul General in Bangalore, Ingo Karsten, looks back at his two years in the city he says is “at the forefront of technology and science”. In an interview with The Hindu, Dr. Karsten says that although the German consulate achieved several of its targets — including a steady increase in the number of visas issued, interesting scientific collaborations and business partnerships — there is still room for greater cooperation between the IT city and the G8 nation.
Would you say there is a growing interest in Germany among Indian students and professionals based on your observations at the Bangalore consulate?
There has always been a significant interest in Germany among the Indian business community. But now, increasingly, science students and Indian tourists are also visiting Germany. It is good to see that Indians are looking beyond the United States and United Kingdom for opportunities. Last year the consulate here issued 25,000 visas, and I expect this figure to reach 30,000 this year. The consulate in Bangalore sees more visa applications than all of our centres in the country, barring Mumbai. This city ranks six, worldwide, in the number of long-term visa applications issued.
What makes Bangalore particularly significant for Indo-German collaboration?
Bangalore is exciting for German companies and institutions because the city is at the forefront of technology and science: especially IT, biosciences and aerospace. We have projects with some of the most reputed science institutes here. The Centre for Lipid Research co-founded by the Max Planck Institute for Cell Biology and Genetics and the National Centre for Biological Sciences works on bio-medical research, and the Indian Institute for Science houses a Bosch Centre for Research in Cyber Physical Systems research.
We have 160-170 German companies in Karnataka — including some of the biggest German IT companies — most of which are in Bangalore. But we do hope that Indian IT companies will increase their presence in Germany.
The big ones — Infosys and Wipro — are already present and others have shown interest in opening offices in order to be closer to German customers. But there is huge, untapped potential for Germany and Bangalore to work closer.
By next year, over 1,000 Kendriya Vidyalas in India will teach German. How important is language in your mission to create an interest in Germany?
The best way to get acquainted with any country is through language and culture. So, if more young people become interested in the German language and culture, they may be comfortable opting for Germany as a place to study or do research. There are 6,000 Indian students in Germany. That is not enough. I think we will have more students from India if there was more awareness about our education system. It is not a very well advertised fact, but our universities are State-run and virtually free.