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The Reluctant and the Carefree Leader - Germany and India

Posted in Finance Articles, Total Reads: 2475 , Published on December 10, 2013

Germany and India: their policies and foreign policy which stymies their presence in the world.

Indian and Germany hardly crop up in numero uno agendas of the countries. However, the progress made by both the second half of the twentieth century has propelled them to a situation where they are indispensable yet unimportant.

Image Courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

Divided and humbled post the world war both India and Germany treaded very carefully on the matter of foreign policy. India under Nehru took the moral ground in the cold war calling for a Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) while Germany dutifully formed the frontier of the Iron Curtain. To counter a U.S. backed Pakistan India tilted to the Soviets till the Vajpayee government broke the logjam, inspite of a series of nuclear tests. Germany progressed on a path of reconciliation after they broke the Berlin wall to be united again (unthinkable in the India-Pakistan equation) trying to find their unique identity in the multipolar world and free themselves of what their country had done to the world in the slumber of a Nazi regime.

Till the 1990’s both nations were the footnotes of international equations. European power was in Brussels while Asia had four lions, tech perfectionists Japan and Korea and an emerging China. Economy was not better: balance of payment crisis 1991 saw India mortgaging its gold while Germany was termed as the ‘Sick Man of Europe’.

Things since have changed. Yet Germany remains a reluctant leader, afraid of what its quest for power had done to the world, and shying away from taking power and control, what is rightfully its own, though quietly providing the push lead in the euro-crisis ridden world, far exceeding expectations of many. India has been a carefree leader of sorts, neither its people and nor its political brass cares of what the world thinks of it, a leader of its own mind, with no fixed purpose, allies.

The uncurious case of Germany

The world still remembers Germany who plunged the world into world wars and invented the holocaust. The Germany of today is a miracle considering its modern origins: ridden by Nazi guilt, divided nation, stagnant economy and five million unemployed. For Germans it was all about Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or coming to terms with the past. Germany post the wars is built with the motto: ‘Schaffe! Schaffe! Häusle baue!' meaning work, work, build your little house. The German have built their house, now a refuge for the neighbors whose houses are leaking.

The German foreign policy has since been built on defensive mode. The guilt ridden German state is always sitting on the fence for it does not want to be found on the wrong side of history again. Its integration to join Euro devaluating its currency the Deutschemark and other efforts were expected to wash over some of the existential guilt, and be remembered for what it did for Europe and not for what it did to Europe.

The Euro crisis was an opportunity that Germany had never asked for but as the strongest European economy it fell upon its shoulders to save the euro currency. While economist may argue over the methods adopted by Merkel, images of long lines of Greeks waiting for their daily foods, videos of clashes between the protestors of austerity and the police are a part of everyday international news, we cannot let go of the fact that Germany has stood by the Euro. It has taxed its people for bailout packages to Italy, Greece and others. And inspite of all it is doing, an odd artist comes up with a graffiti of Merkel in the legendary Hitler moustaches, and there it ends all.

Germany, in its factor in integration even became a part of NATO, whose establishment guidelines had the line “… to keep Germany down…” The problem is not doing too little but showing too little. Germany has shuddered away from taking the leaders role for Europe which it so rightly deserves. Today the German state is in a position that it can speak for all of Europe, Still it prefers to share the standing with Britain or France, sometimes preferring the shadows.

On the international front too Germany is found sitting on the fence, and for no apparent reason. It frequently abstains from voting choosing only the safest of resolutions to cast its vote in UN. And sometimes even that does not work in its favor, like receiving public thanking from Gaddafi. For its much defensive nature the world does not look forward to German opinion on such matters, limiting it to Europe.

Germany inspite of all of its success is not a soft power. German sitcoms, food, cuisine, wines are not in demand, its bestselling books are not translated and neither does its best movies find much audience outside. Germany, with the rich culture has been unable to differentiate itself on these grounds as the French, Italians, Greeks, English even Scandinavians have done. Germany remains a dominant economic force with excellent management and technological skills but culturally insular.

Between past and future

The window of booksellers find a permanent genre: Indian Millennium, India 2020, India 2050…

Indians keep pushing the deadline of greatness but they know it’s theirs to achieve. Such deep rooted optimism is a rare quality and aspiration, nay right to greatness is inborn in every one born on the soil. Marred by ills that continue from the pre-independence era it is probably this optimism that floats the Indian boat. More than that, as individuals Indians do not care how the world looks at it.

Humbled and humiliated as a British colony for 200 years, the hacking off of an Islamic Pakistan from the stooped shoulders of India is where it all begins. India was soon noticed worldwide with the Kashmir issue in UN and the NAM of Nehru, post which it spiraled into a third world nation. With its borders burning and Chinese defeat India lost its pride and with 2-3% growth till the time Indian gold reserved sent to Britain it had no time to reflect how the world looked at it.

Just like Germany, economic prosperity post 1990 followed by a widening of International window of affairs did India came back on the scene. The NAM-Nehruvian India was now walking a tightrope between Russia and U.S. and opened relationship with Israel who today happens to be a major intelligence and defense partner. Its stride into space through a very efficient ISRO along with nuclear tests and ICBM’s it made all the right noises for noticing, but like the Proteas cricket team, it choked when it mattered the most.

Indian Foreign Services, a bureaucratic setup, has not evolved with the times. Staffed only at 900, comparable to tiny Singapore’s 867, other nations: UK (6000), Germany (6550), China (4200) and Japan (5500) compare much superior to it.

India along with Germany and Japan is often considered to be included as a permanent member of the UNSC, if ever the exclusive club is expanded. But none of its international affairs have had much affect in the world. She was conspicuously absent when there was fire around it, whether it be the Vietnam War or the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and the rise of mujahideen. Its misadventures in Sri Lanka are nothing to boast of. Were it not for the Bangladeshi freedom war or the Tibetan refugee issue Indian foreign policy would have nothing on its CV.

Even today it abstains from major votes, inspite of strong words. The rise of China has not played much in its favor. Its activities, like training Afghan nationals in its Military academy, funds to Africa and pledging of support to E.U. find margins even in national news.

In terms of soft power though India is amongst one of the most influential (though in turn being influenced by US). Its culture, cuisines, festivals, rituals, are in demand. This export has had two ambassadors: The NRI’s (they say the twentieth century is the Indian diaspora) and Bollywood (Germans refer to Indians as being from the land of Shah Rukh Khan). It contributes to the highest brain drain in the world and its festivities are increasingly adopted in liked in the world.

Into the spotlight

A weakened America and a rebuilding Russia have left Europe to its own devices, and there could be no better leader than Germany. As it spearheads with the Eurozone flag, bailing our irresponsible nations by taxing its citizens, it alone stands to represent Europe. It has paid it dues for its past.

Indians have always demanded a greater role in the world its time they deserve it. The dream India keeps changing the decades. It’s time to apply solutions. The deep conviction of greatness is the fuel that requires the spark to fire it up. An inward out approach is in order, set your house in order, tell your neighbor to respect boundaries and then grasp the world outside.

This article has been authored by Shubhang Srivastava from Indian Institute of Management Shillong


[1] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/31/is-germany-too-powerful-for-europe



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