Merkel braves Delhi air, vows 1 billion euros for green urban mobility

German Chancellor Angela Merkel during at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Friday. India and Germany signed 17 memorandum of understandings. Photo: PTI
On a day public health emergency was declared in the Delhi-NCR region, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on a two-day visit to the country, expressed desire to provide euro 1 billion to India for green urban mobility. The two nations signed a joint declaration on the matter after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Merkel as part of the fifth Indo-German Inter-Governmental Consultations.

Merkel (65) remained seated when the national anthems were played during her ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, after she was granted exemption due to her medical condition. Merkel’s hectic itinerary in Delhi included many outdoor engagements — from the ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhawan and paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat to her visit to Gandhi Smriti — leading to her braving the toxic air.

Though the Kashmir situation was not discussed during the consultations, sources said, Merkel expected to hear from Modi plans for J&K during their 'restricted meeting' held at the official residence of the PM in the presence of officials from both the sides. Before the meeting with Modi, Merkel told the German media: “As the situation at this moment (in Kashmir) is not sustainable and not good, this has to change for sure."

At the consultations, 17 agreements were signed, the external affairs ministry said. Five joint declarations of intent were exchanged too. Pitching for intensifying of trade ties, Merkel said, “Our economic relations have increased but it could be intensified even more. Make in India is an endeavour we have understood since India was the host country at the Hannover fair. We saw that you are serious about this goal.”

The leaders agreed to deepen efforts to resume stalled negotiations for free-trade agreement between India and the European Union (EU). “Both sides confirmed the importance of a balanced free-trade agreement between India and the EU and agreed to deepen efforts to restart negotiations on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA),” a joint statement said.

The negotiations for the pact have been held up since May 2013 as both the sides failed to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues. Launched in June 2007, the negotiations for the BTIA have witnessed many hurdles with both the sides having major differences on key issues like intellectual property rights, duty cut in auto and spirits, and liberal visa regime.

Breathless in the capital
  • Delhi’s air quality drops to ‘emergency’ category first time since January
  • A Supreme Court mandated panel declares public health emergency and bans construction activities till November 5
  • Apex court  to consider Environment Pollution Control Authority’s pollution control report, stubble-burning issue on November 4
  • All schools to remain shut until November 5
  • Odd-even scheme to be in place  from November 4 to 15
  • Weather experts say increased wind speed due to a fresh western disturbance approaching the northern region would help disperse pollutants faster from Saturday

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