Europe’s “oil price cap”, meant to target Russian oil exports, which goes into effect on Monday will be top of the agenda as Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock meets with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar for bilateral talks. In written responses to The Hindu ahead of her visit, Ms. Baerbock said she hopes India will help the western sanctions effort against Russia, and adhere to the price cap set at $60 per barrel for Russian seaborne exports. In a reversal from her comments in October on a role for the UN in resolving the Jammu Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, which had led to sharp criticism from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ms. Baerbock also said in her responses that she believes this is a “bilateral” dispute. Ms. Baerbock’s visit is meant to set the stage for the bi-annual India-Germany summit meeting, as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is expected to India in early 2023.
Q / Please tell us about the agenda for your visit to Delhi and what you hope to achieve during your bilateral talks here?
A / As the world’s largest democracy, India is a naturally close partner in the Indo-Pacific. What unites us is the fundamental belief that we want our people to be free and safe. We are facing immense global challenges that we can only address together, such as the climate crisis. India plays a pivotal role in this—as a rising power in Asia and beyond. Our countries have so much to offer one-another. We want to tap that enormous potential. One such example is the concrete agreement we will sign during my visit, making it a lot easier for both Indians and Germans to study, research and work in our respective countries.
Q / How do you hope to work with India during its G20 presidency, and what are the issues you think will be salient for the G20 process in 2023? Will Chancellor Scholz visit Delhi in the near future, before the G20?
A / The G20 leaders’ clear message on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine at the Bali summit was a remarkable diplomatic success. “Today’s era is not the era of war” — that was the resounding message and I highly appreciate India’s seminal role in achieving this. We want to build on this because we see how Russia’s war is slashing wounds far beyond Europe, sparking a dramatic food crisis, also here in Asia. That is why, we have been working relentlessly to tackle global food insecurity, be it through grain corridors from Ukraine or by rallying partners to help those most in need. Engaging closely with the Indian G20 presidency is dear to our heart. The Chancellor is planning to come in the first quarter of 2023.
Q / India’s consumption of Russian oil has grown more than 20 times in the past nine months, despite calls from the US and EU to reduce financial dealings with Moscow after the war in Ukraine. And India has abstained from all votes at the UN that seek to criticise Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Do you expect to discuss this during your visit, and what kind of role can India play in promoting peace in the Ukraine conflict?
A / For the past 9 months, Russia has been waging not only a brutal war of aggression against Ukraine but against our international peace order. And now it is using the coming winter as a weapon, targeting civilian infrastructure. This war is not a European or Western affair. This war affects us all. It sets a dangerous precedent to all those who aim at altering borders by brute force. Therefore, I believe it is crucial to condemn this breach of the UN Charter. The international sanctions have the clear goal to limit Russia’s ability to continue its war of aggression. We strongly encourage our partners to adopt sanctions as well, but we are aware that many states have different economic constraints. That is why it is so important that we as democracies work together to reduce our economic dependencies on authoritarian regimes. From the start, we have sought to limit the effects of our sanctions for third countries. The price cap for Russian oil deliveries is one such example. It aims to avoid supply shortages and rising prices for states depending on Russia’s oil. Partners can support without formally adhering to it: by purchasing oil below the set cap.
Q / How do you see the COP27 agreement on the loss and Damage fund? While the EU expressed disappointment over outcomes, India has welcomed the fund. Also where do you think Germany and India should pay most attention when it comes to countering climate change?
A / Finally establishing a fund for loss and damage really has given hope. It has opened a new chapter for climate justice. For months, we were working very hard to convince other industrialized countries. Because we see everywhere in the world how the dramatic consequences of climate change already have dire effects on our lives. In Europe but also in India. How it destroys the livelihood of the most vulnerable is a blatant injustice. As big emitters that are largely to blame for this crisis, we have a paramount responsibility to help alleviate it. However, seeing these droughts, floods, heavy monsoon rains should also clearly make us all more ambitious when it comes to reducing global Carbon Dioxide emissions. Because there is simply not enough money to pay for the consequences of a 2.5, 2.7 degree world. That is why we passed the toughest climate legislation ever in Europe, reducing emissions by 2030 by at least 55 percent. In Germany, we are phasing out coal by 2030. However, we can only fight the climate crisis together. That we did not achieve more at COP27 was a big disappointment, but our countries can work closer together, for instance through ambitious climate partnerships.
Q / Recently during a press conference, you had suggested that the United Nations should be engaged in the resolution of the Jammu Kashmir dispute, a call India has strongly rejected. What kind of role do you think the UN can play?
A / Let me be very clear: Germany’s position on this question has not changed. We believe that the conflict in Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. We encourage both sides to engage in dialogue to resolve their disagreements. The agreement reached last year reinstating the ceasefire on the Line of Control was an important step.
Q / The German foreign ministry had also commented on government actions against media in India. Do you plan to raise these concerns, and concerns about Jammu Kashmir during your visit here?
A / No woman, no man, no child in this world can thrive if their fundamental rights are not protected. This is non-negotiable and that’s why Germany advocates assiduously for human rights around the world. It is my profound believe that a vibrant civil society is indispensable for every democracy, to ensure that our people can live in freedom and prosperity. I believe that we share this conviction with India.
Q / The Indian government has been pursuing the case of Baby Ariha, who has been taken into custody by German authorities. Is this issue close to a resolution, and will Ms. Ariha be returned to her Indian parents?
A / As a mother of two girls, I feel the compassion that the reports on this case may have sparked here in India. So let me assure you that the case is in the hands of competent German child welfare authorities. As in India, they are legally bound to put the child’s interest first.
Q / India has also abstained at the Human Rights Council on Germany led proposal to order an investigation into Iran’s crackdown on protestors. What is your response to this?
A / The brave women and men in Iran are taking to the streets to defend their fundamental freedoms. Their courage is met with utmost brutality by the regime. With its 24 November resolution, the Human Rights Council has sent a strong signal: Those responsible for the horrendous human rights violations in Iran must be held to account. Of course, many would have welcomed India joining those in favor, but the most important thing was that only a handful of countries voted against.
Q / After years of the G4 initiative at the UNSC, do you think India Germany Brazil and Japan have made any progress on the issue of a permanent Seat. Would the G4 accept the seats if they come without veto power?
A / To be honest, progress on this matter has been meager. However, this does not discourage us from further pushing for Security Council reform, together with our Indian partners. That’s why I am very glad that the four of us reengaged at the UN General Assembly in September. Today’s geopolitical realities require a capable and fully functioning Security Council, more than ever. It has been a long-standing position of the G4 that the new permanent seats should not entail any veto powers for the first 15 years. Time and again we have seen how the veto power is being abused—as Russia did on multiple occasions this year. The UN Security Council must reflect the realities of our world in the 21st century.