German focus on Indian Ocean

S. Jaishankar

S. Jaishankar  

In an unusual gesture, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar will deliver the keynote address at a regional conference of German Ambassadors in Colombo on Wednesday.

The conference, to be attended by Germany’s envoys to all Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) nations as well as to the U.S. and China, is part of discussions between India and Germany to cooperate with IOR countries.

On Monday, Mr. Jaishankar met German State Secretary Markus Ederer for talks ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Berlin next month.

MEA officials would not comment on Mr. Jaishankar’s outreach with German Ambassadors, but confirmed that he would be in Colombo on Wednesday.

“We believe the Indian Ocean region is an underrated theatre, compared with the Asia Pacific region. There is also competition shaping up between the major powers here, and we think it is important to engage with India, which is a major partner,” a senior German diplomat, who preferred not to be named, told The Hindu , adding that the conference was also likely to be addressed by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe and an Indonesian Minister.

Shared interests

“India and Germany are both interested in rules-based regimes, freedom of the high seas, stability, and diversifying our political relations,” the official added.

The talks will also be raised at the next level when PM Modi travels to Germany for the Inter governmental commission (IGC) with Chancellor Angela Merkel on May 29-30.

The new push for cooperation between New Delhi and Berlin in the Indian Ocean Region is part of growing patterns in both capitals. In the past, India has shied away from “sharing influence” in the region, instead preferring to keep all discussions about the subcontinent and neighbouring countries on the Indian Ocean’s Rim bilateral.

However, partly with a view to countering China’s considerable investment in these countries, India has been talking much more to the U.S., Australia and other countries.

In Berlin, the shift is necessitated by a need to review its interests around the world, particularly given the new U.S. administration’s lack of clarity in deploying its forces around the world.

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