Germany will not make any “public criticism” of India’s decision to increase its import of Russian oil, German Ambassador Walter Lindner said on Wednesday, indicating that despite their own plans to cut oil dependency on Russia by 90% by the end of 2022, European countries understand that the Indian position on the war in Ukraine is unlikely to change.
Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Germany to attend the G-7 summit of industrialised nations on May 26-28, where India is among the special invitees, Mr. Lindner said while the economic impact of the war would dominate the discussions, India’s stand on buying oil or banning wheat exports would not.
“India’s voting pattern [abstentions at the UN], and these kinds of things, that’s not in the centre of discussions anymore. We know now why is India doing this, and we know what’s the thinking behind it. On the wheat and oil and so on, we have discussed these and we understand quite a large part of of where India stands,” he told The Hindu during an interview after addressing his last press conference as German envoy to India.
He added that the new German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, would focus instead on what India and Germany can “achieve for the future”, and not look back to say India “could have done this there and this there”.
To a specific question about India’s intake of Russian oil increasing nearly nine times its monthly average from last year, Mr. Lindner said Germany planned to cut its own oil dependency on Russia “drastically” by August, and “put the brakes” on other energy imports at the earliest.
The Ambassador’s words are significant as Germany was at the forefront of European countries that had been urging India to change its position at the UN and on adhering to western sanctions against Russia for what he referred to as “[Russian President] Putin’s war” in Ukraine, which began on February.
Mr. Lindner said that the difference in India’s stand would have “no impact” on ties with the European Union. “Putin’s war has shown that we need friends, allies who share values such as democracy. If anything, this will lead to a bigger push for closer ties, towards the India-EU Free Trade Agreement. Democracies who are not attacking their neighbours need each other,” he added.
In comments that appeared to indicate China’s transgressions on the LAC with India, Mr. Lindner stressed that it was a “dangerous principle” to allow any country to attack its neighbour, violating sovereignty, because he said “there’s so many nations around the globe, which have border disputes. Who could that mean, in India?”
Speaking about his three-year tenure in Delhi, Mr. Lindner said it had been “unusual” as much of the time since his arrival in 2019 was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on movements during the lockdown in 2020.
Mr. Lindner, who was formerly the German State Secretary (Foreign Secretary), told reporters that it was necessary for diplomats to realise that the nature of their assignments had now changed, and especially with the advent of social media, diplomats need to reach out to non-official citizens across the country.
An avid photographer and a trained musician, Mr. Lindner is known for his colourful photographs and posts on Twitter from various parts of the country.
The envoy said he was first attracted to India during the global “Concert for Bangladesh” organised by Pandit Ravi Shankar and the Beatles in August 1971.
Mr. Lindner had famously picked up the guitar during a concert in Delhi with Indian artistes in August 2020 to play the song Winds of Change, written about the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“The India I love is deeply spiritual, and is multicultural. This is an idea. So I try also in my social media acting to portray the different facets of India, which means different relations, different ways of thinking, tolerance…,” Mr. Lindner said when asked about recent German reports on the decline of Indian democracy and pluralism.
“No President, no Prime Minister, no Opposition leader is always in this position, it always changes. India has a very old culture. And I think a big part of this country is the coexistence and the tolerance of different cultural influences, religions, languages,” he added.