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Indo-German Relations: Achievements and Challenges in the 21st Century
Marian Gallenkamp

The history of Indo–German relations is marked by decades of friendship and cooperation. After the Second World War, India was the first country to officially end the state of war with the still young Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), and among the first nations to recognize the newly formed state. Diplomatic relations were taken up as early as 1951, but as Cold War politics unfolded and swept around the globe, ideological differences prevented the two countries from deepening and extending their relations and cooperation beyond trade, cultural exchange, and development assistance. While Germany sought rapid integration into NATO and deepened its relations with the West, thereby becoming the frontline state between the Unites States and the Soviet Union in the heart of Europe; India chose to embark on its own path and Non-Alignment became the first directive of Nehru’s foreign policy. 

Additionally, the issue of diplomatic relations between India and the German Democratic Republic led to sharp controversies, which ended only after Germany abandoned the Hallstein-doctrine . India finally recognized the second German state, and set up diplomatic relations with the GDR in 1972. But despite the politics of Cold War strategies, relations in some sectors have improved and deepened over time. The German commitment within the field of development cooperation proved to be an especially invaluable factor for producing close ties between India and Germany that were complemented by an active cultural exchange, untroubled by historical or colonial legacies. However, for a long time the economic dimension of relations played a subordinate role and cooperation with regard to security policy did not exist at all. Until the 1990s, the FRG’s political interests in India remained low and the relations could best be characterized as a policy of ‘benign neglect’ .

With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, world politics changed dramatically. India not only lost its largest and most significant trading partner, but also its most influential supporter and ally with regard to foreign policy. For India, it became necessary to revise its foreign policy and to think about the role it wanted to play in a post-Cold War world.


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