India can't stay neutral on Ukraine war — Germany's Habeck

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told DW Germany seeks closer economic and business corporation with India, but added New Delhi "can't stay neutral" on Ukraine

India has officially maintained a neutral position since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 (Photo: DW)
India has officially maintained a neutral position since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 (Photo: DW)


At the start of a three-day visit to India, German Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck urged New Delhi to condemn Russia's war in Ukraine.

In an interview with DW's New Delhi bureau chief, Amrita Cheema, in New Delhi, Habeck said, "you can't stay neutral if there's injustice."

"There's always an aggressor and one that is the victim, and if you say 'I don't distinguish between aggressor and victim,' in a way, you don't reflect the real situation," he said.

Habeck said while he respected India's own "tradition and partnership with Russia," the country cannot remain neutral while the war is ongoing.

"I would be very glad, and it would even help in our relationship, if India at least finds clear language and says this is an aggression, it's a one-sided aggression, it's Putin's war," Habeck said.

India has officially maintained a neutral position since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. However, New Delhi has not supported Western sanctions on Moscow, and continues to purchase fossil fuels from Russia.

Germany looking to India as it 'de-risks' from China

Despite the friction over Ukraine, Habeck's visit to India, along with a business delegation, is a step toward expanding Germany's economic ties in Asia away from China and to diversify energy resources.

"Closer cooperation especially in renewable energies and green hydrogen holds a lot of potential for both sides and can increase our
resilience and economic security," said a Economy Ministry statement released ahead of the trip.

Habeck told DW he was optimistic about collaboration with India on energy issues.

"We have to face it, global warming is a reality, and we have to stop it as soon as we can," Habeck, who is a member of Germany's Green Party said. "So renewable energy, energy efficiency, this is the issue of the day," he added.

Habeck told DW that "due to Russia's unprecedented aggression war on Ukraine, we learned a painful lesson that being dependent on only one country — in this case on energy — can be dangerous."

On China, Habeck said, "it's okay to have a big partnership with China, India also has one, but being dependent on one [partner] is not so good. So, we are searching for new partners."

Last week the German government published its first China strategy focusing on de-risking economically from China. Germany is China's largest European trading partner.

Labor, free trade and energy on the agenda

Habeck, who is joined by a business delegation, said he is also keen to address Germany's shortage of skilled workers, which is a major concern for German companies.

"We have a lack of workforce in Germany, in India [there are] a lot of skilled, talented, well-educated people, you're very welcome," Habeck said.

Germany last month passed immigration law reform designed to encourage more people from outside the European Union to come to Germany for work. German Labor Minister Hubertus Heil is also visiting India this week, aiming to recruit more nurses amid a shortage of care workers in Germany.

Habeck also hoped for progress in the talks about a free trade deal between the EU and India.

The EU and India have spent years attempting to hammer out a free trade agreement. During his February visit to India, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed his desire to accelerate these negotiations.

During the remainder of his trip, Habeck is scheduled to attend a Group of 20 energy ministers' meeting in western India's Goa state on Saturday.

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