Dear Mr. Kakar,
Dear members of the consular corps,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Mumbai’s most famous landmark, the historic Gateway of India, stands proudly on the waterfront of the city, overlooking the harbour. It greets travellers from every corner of the earth and invites them to discover a fascinating country. I myself had an opportunity to do that three years ago. The country and its people impressed me enormously. India unites tradition and innovation in a way that is truly unique.
So it is all the more pleasing to me that Hamburg, too, becomes a Gateway of India every two years. And having said that, dear guests, I welcome you most warmly to India Week 2015 on behalf of the Senate of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.
India Week is taking place for the sixth time this year. The motto is: “Discover India in Hamburg”. And that is not too much of a promise. Until next Sunday our city will be transformed into a colourful kaleidoscope that will tempt the public to discover some of the many facets of India.
There is no denying that India is a land of superlatives and a land where extremes meet. With a population of 1.2 billion, the Republic of India is the world’s second-largest country and its biggest democracy. It is one of the ten largest economies and therefore an important global player. In some industries, especially in the IT sector, it has achieved a leading position. But at the same time – and that is India, too – one-third of the population lives on or under the subsistence level.
India Week is the biggest event of its kind in Germany. It has long become a good Hamburg tradition, and one that is becoming more and more popular. This year we are celebrating the biggest India Week ever. Nearly twice as many participants are involved as in 2013, and a large number of new sponsors and promoters have been found.
Preparations for the coming week have been going on for over a year. Many people have put great effort into this work – and I wish to thank them all most sincerely! The result is very pleasing. Visitors can look forward to top-class presentations from the fields of industry, politics and society. The programme includes both traditional topics and issues of importance to the present and the future.
Of course fans of Indian culture will find a great deal to interest them, too. The cultural events will account for a large part of the coming week – and much of its magic. Among other things we can look forward to musical and cinematic highlights, an Indian football match and the dance performance of a male ensemble. One important topic will be the strength of Indian women.
We are happy and honoured to welcome so many prominent personalities from India, including the outstanding actress Ms. Sharmila Tagore.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s four hundred years, now, since the first ships set out for India from the port of Hamburg, under extremely difficult conditions. In those days it took a good 20 weeks to reach their destination. But arduous as the journey was, trade between our nations flourished and German-Indian relations have become stronger all the time.
Hamburg’s foreign trade with India has nearly tripled since 2002 – from 450 million euros to about 1.25 billion euros. Over 236,000 standard containers are now handled in the port of Hamburg, including shipment via Sri Lanka. Our imports from India are mainly textiles, chemical products, and food and feed.
Our trade relations are by no means a one-way street. Proof of that is the latest record order from IndiGo to Airbus. 250 aircraft of the type A320neo are now to be built for the Indian airline.
Some 550 Hamburg companies engage in trade with India. More than a quarter of them have representative offices, affiliates or production facilities of their own in the country. And not without reason: the sub-continent offers enormous potential for growth – potential which is still far from being exploited to the full.
Companies that are treading new ground by entering the Indian market can count on support from Hamburg. Since 2011 the city has had a representative office in Mumbai and informs Hamburg investors about the opportunities awaiting them on the spot. In addition, two Hamburg Ambassadors represent the interests of our city in Hyderabad and Mumbai on a voluntary basis. Not to mention the offers here in Hamburg, too.
Hamburg maintains an economic dialogue with India through networks and institutions. They include the German-Indian Round Table, one of the initiators of India Week. This open platform for small and medium-sized companies was established in Hamburg in 2001 to promote business relations between Germany and India. Other players specializing in “India” are the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, the HWF Hamburg Business Development Corporation and the Hamburg Ministry of Economy, Transport and Innovation. Yet another platform aiming to promote relations with Indian industry is the German Asia-Pacific Business Association (OAV).
Conversely, there is considerable interest in Hamburg. Some forty Indian companies have established themselves in our city. They include the Indian steel magnate Laxmi Mittal, who bought the Hamburg Steelworks. And also Tata Consultancy Services Deutschland GmbH and various importers of clothing and spices.
But good partnership requires close cultural relations, too. Our India Week is a way of pointing that out to the public. For years, Hamburg has maintained intensive contacts and cooperation with creative artists from India.
Indian culture has many facets and has always held great fascination for us here. It inspired famous German writers like Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann and sends our imagination on journeys of discovery to this day.
The Hamburg Ministry of Culture regularly supports a cultural exchange with India. One example of this is the project “040”. It was initiated in 2009 together with the Goethe Centre in Hyderabad with the aim of promoting artistic and cultural projects jointly. It so happens that Hamburg and the south Indian city of Hyderabad have the same telephone dialling code.
Indian artists are regularly invited to our city. The partners and organizers are the associations active in Hamburg, such as the Indo-German Society, and many institutions from Hamburg’s cultural scene such as Kampnagel, the Metropolis Cinema and KinderKinder. Similarly, cultural institutions from Hamburg present themselves in India.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Two hundred years ago Franz Bopp, who initiated the study of the Indo-Germanic languages, was able to prove what had long been suspected in Europe: Old High German and other ancient European languages are related to Sanskrit. A fascinating discovery. It makes us aware that we have common roots that will always constitute ties between us in spite of all our social and cultural differences.
Maybe it is these common roots that make Hamburg and India partners in the pursuit of progress. We are united by a strong will to achieve competence in matters of modern technology and the sciences. For years, Hamburg’s universities have been cooperating with top-ranking universities and research institutions in India.
In the last winter semester, 375 students from India were registered at universities in Hamburg. That means the number has more than doubled in the past three years. Most of the students register for degree courses in Engineering at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg, and they are highly successful. That makes them extremely interesting as specialists – both for Hamburg and for the Indian market.
Hamburg is one of the most dynamic major cities in the European Union, and it offers excellent quality of life. Part of that is our culture of welcome. We support newcomers to our city in numerous ways. That applies especially to skilled workers from abroad; for them we hope to become a “Gateway to Germany”. We want everyone who lives and works in Hamburg to feel welcome and at home among us.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year, India Week will be taking place on the eve of the Diwali Festival. The “Festival of Lights” is one of the most important celebrations in India, rather like Christmas here in Europe. So we hope the next few days will be a successful run-up to it, full of highlights and insights that open up new paths into the future.