Looking for stronger economic ties and an early conclusion of a balanced free trade agreement with the European Union, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flew to Germany on a special flight early on Wednesday.
During his three-day visit, Manmohan would co-chair the second round of inter-governmental consultations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. This is his third bilateral visit to Germany.
A heavyweight delegation of five cabinet ministers -- External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Science and Technology Minister S Jaipal Reddy, Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah and Human Resources Development Minister M M Pallam Raju, is accompanying him.
While Khurshid had reached Germany a day earlier, the rest of the ministers boarded a specially refurbished Air India aircraft.
Noting that Germany was one of India’s key global partners for trade and investment, Manmohan said he intended to “seek greater trade and investment ties” with Berlin, “as we continue to take steps to boost domestic investments, attract foreign investors and spur the economy back to its long-term growth potential of eight per cent”. The PM said he would seek Merkel’s support for an early conclusion of a balanced India-EU Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement. The PM would also urge Europe to keep its doors open to Indian investors and professionals.
Germany is India’s largest trading partner in Europe, though the Eurozone crisis had contracted trade by about 10 per cent last year. The current global economic slowdown and ways to ameliorate it would also come up during discussions.
NSA Shiv Shankar Menon will also hold a strategic dialogue on security issues with his German counterpart.