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Germany keen on civil nuclear cooperation

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Thomas Matussek, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Thomas Matussek, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Shyam Ranganathan

But the first step in this direction could be about nuclear safety: German Ambassador

CHENNAI: Germany is keen on civilian nuclear cooperation with India but the first step in this direction could be about reactor safety, according to German ambassador to India Thomas Matussek.

Speaking to The Hindu here on Wednesday, Mr. Matussek said: “We have been reluctant because one of the big risks of the globe is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction… India has gone its own special way with the nuclear deal with the United States and has decided not to go the way of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But you have an impeccable record of non-proliferation.”

He pointed to his experience of negotiating five Iran resolutions [while working as the permanent representative of Germany to the U.N.]. After making the offer to cooperate with Iran on civilian nuclear energy if it stopped enrichment as part of the negotiations, he said, cooperating with India was a “no-brainer.”

Germany was keen on a strategic relationship with India as “equal partners” over the long term, Mr. Matussek said. “We find [stability] in the European Union and to a certain degree in North America and we keep looking and looking and here we have an anchor of stability of over one billion people in a rough neighbourhood and we think your stability and security also defines ours,” he said.

German and international involvement in Afghanistan had been overambitious and it was now realised that the most realistic bet would be to place the country in a situation where the Afghan people themselves could decide how to organise their country.

The community had realised late that the real problem was Pakistan which was always in a position to say, ‘You help us; if not, we will blow ourselves up.’ Hard power was necessary to flush out terrorists but soft power in the form of education, the fight against poverty and a good governance system were required along with the real time sharing of intelligence and the capability to act on it real time.

He said the German Air Force was ready to provide not just the latest light combat and multirole aircraft but also the complete technical knowhow for indigenisation. Germany was also offering full support to the Indian anti-terrorism agencies and proposed a memorandum of understanding to India.

The MoU had been with the Home Ministry and then the Foreign Ministry and was now again with the Home Ministry. “I have talked to the Home Minister Mr. Chidambaram and he has said he will push it very hard,” Mr. Matussek said.

While strategic cooperation was being driven by the governments, there was also a vibrant industrial partnership especially in the automotive sector. Small and medium industries, largely family-run, contributed to 60 per cent of Germany’s GDP and this was similar to the Indian industrial structure.

India’s greatest strength was its huge population and, if things went according to plan, it could have a productive workforce of 600 million by 2050. Germany could help in the form of shopfloor training and vocational courses for them. A “train the trainer” academy would be set up in Pune when the Federal President visited India in the first week of February.

He would sign a bilateral agreement on economic and technological cooperation worth 350 million euros and agreements on scientific cooperation and social security.

Mr. Matussek said he would make sure that German leaders included Chennai in their itinerary. “I will come back regularly and Chennai will be one of usual staging points much more than other places,” he said.


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