German president makes India his first port of call in Asia
From 4 – 9 February, German President Joachim Gauck made his first State visit to an Asian country, paying tribute to India, the world’s largest democracy. President Gauck was accompanied by his partner Daniela Schadt. Addressing students at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, the President said, "I have brought with me to India...curiosity and respect." This defined the tone of his five-day tour, including the capital New Delhi and India's IT hub Bangalore.
During his first extended trip to Asia in his term in office, the Federal President held political talks with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj and others. At the state banquet hosted by President Mukherjee, Gauck reflected on close links shared by the two countries, as also the common potential for the future. He said, "It is important that India and Germany closely coordinate on global issues such as security, development, global trade and climate protection."
The president had an open interaction with prominent representatives of Indian civil society, where talks focused on social and human rights issues, including above all, the situation of women. Remarking on the frank discussions, the President said, "Here in India, ... I have got the impression that just about any criticism that a foreign visitor might voice has already been expressed frankly and openly by Indians themselves."
On 7 February the Federal President left for Bangalore where he attended a conference on vocational training which focused on issues of training skilled workers for India’s labour market. In his speech, President Gauck emphasised, "A society can only be fit for the future if it invests in the education and training of its young people." He expressed the hope that India will further expand its successful cooperation with Germany in the field of vocational education and training.
In addition to metro cities, the Federal President also got a glimpse of rural India. A visit to a German development cooperation project, producing coir-fibre products from coconut waste, showed how initiatives of this kind help people in rural areas to open up opportunities for earning a living.
India is Germany’s strategic partner since more than a decade – both in political and economic terms. In India, the Federal President was accompanied by a high-ranking 80-member delegation, including Gerd Müller, the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Parliamentary State Secretary Ministry for Economics Brigitte Zypries, and the Chairperson of Foreign Affairs Committee German Parliament Norbert Roettgen, among others. The Federal President was also accompanied on his trip to India by a delegation from German SMEs and larger companies.