M A I N   N E W S

Merkel pushes for Eurofighter deal
India, Germany ink four agreements to expand ties
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

n Chancellor Merkel, PM resolve to combat terror on all fronts
n Discuss situation in Af-Pak after Osama’s killing
n Sign four pacts in the fields of education, research and nuclear physics
n Push for UNSC reforms to reflect the changing world realities
n Germany promises India help in nuclear safety
n Both sides also agree to step up trade ties

Merkel plane denied passage over Iran

New Delhi: Iran temporarily denied German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plane the right to fly over its territory on her way to New Delhi this morning, causing a minor diplomatic row between the two countries. ‘Konrad Adenauer’ had to circle over the Turkish-Iranian border for more than two hours, angering Merkel. It is said Tehran was cut up with the German leader for her critical views on Iran’s human rights’ record.

New Delhi, May 31
On a 24-hour visit to New Delhi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel today tried to hardsell the Eurofighter Typhoon jets to India as she discussed a whole range of issues with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, including the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“With the Eurofighter, we have made good proposals and want to intensify our relationship with India. The Eurofighter is the best on offer. We will not exert any influence on the procurement procedures which are very transparent…we believe we have a good product and we shall wait and see,’’ she said at a joint press conference with the Indian PM after the signing of four accords between the two countries to expand cooperation in the fields of education, research and nuclear physics.

In the context of the situation in the Af-Pak region, the PM told Merkel that terrorism was a serious challenge which had to be fought on all fronts and not selectively.

The meeting between the two leaders also marked the launching of the first inter-governmental consultations between the countries on the entire gamut of bilateral relations - from security, defence policy, trade, vocational training, education and research to infrastructure and sustainable energy and environment technologies.

Chancellor Merkel also received the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International understanding for 2009. “I accept this award not only as an honour to the Chancellor, but especially as a tribute to the achievements of my fellow citizens in fulfilling the values of friendship and international understanding that the award recognises,” said Merkel. She also formally launched the ‘Year of Germany in India’ with Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.

However, it was quite clear that the main objective of the German leader’s visit was to nudge the Indian leadership to take an early decision on the combat aircraft deal. German Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière, who was among the half-a-dozen ministers accompanying Chancellor Merkel, held separate talks with Defence Minister AK Antony. The $ 10.4 billion deal for 126 combat jets is also understood to have figured during their talks. Eurofighter Typhoon along with French Dassault Aviation’s Rafale aircraft is in the race for the contract.

India and Germany, meanwhile, called for reforms of the UN Security council to reflect the changing world realities and power equations and emphasised on nuclear energy cooperation. The leaders of the two countries agreed to boost trade between the two countries to 20 billion Euros by 2020 from the present volume of 15 billion Eruos.

The meeting between the two leaders came a day after Germany announced it would phase out all its 17 nuclear plants by 2022, Merkel agreed to help India in areas related to nuclear safety and pledged support for the development of renewable energy.

“Germany will champion nuclear safety standards and help India achieve a broad energy base,” said Merkel. She said her country, a leader in wind and solar energy, was also ready to help in the area of renewable energy.

Manmohan Singh stressed that India needed nuclear power to meet its growing energy demand and to adhere to its self-imposed obligations to combat climate change. “Nuclear energy accounts for only three per cent of total energy generated in our system. As of now our capacity is less than 5,000 MW. We want to raise it to 20,000 MW by 2020,” he said.

Chancellor Merkel was appreciative of the role being played by India in the reconstruction programme under way in Afghanistan. She said a military solution was not an option in Afghanistan. Ultimately, Afghanistan would have to develop its own independent security architecture.





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