Dear Ms Roy,
Dear Consul General,
Dear Members of the Consular Corps,
Dear Ms Desai,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The friendship between our two countries goes back so far that it’s not always easy to establish exactly when it began. After all, mutual trade between the Indian subcontinent and Hamburg has been going on for around 400 years now. What is quite clear, however, is that the friendship between the modern, independent Republic of India and the Federal Republic of Germany is almost exactly as old as the two countries themselves. So the correct answer to the question of how long there have been friendly ties between our two countries is: since their very beginning.
Right at the beginning of our mutual friendship Hamburg was involved in a minor role, but a very fine one, if I may say so. It was here in the city, in a banqueting hall in the Atlantic Hotel not far from where we have gathered today, that the Indo-German Society was founded in 1942. On that occasion the city’s Radio Orchestra played for the first time a version of Jana Mana Gana, which a few years later was to become India’s national anthem. To this very day it is played in exactly the same version in which the Hamburg Orchestra put it to music at that time. It pleases me to think that Hamburg was able to participate in this modest way in the founding of your republic.
On the other hand, India was one of the first countries to grant the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany diplomatic recognition after the Second World War. There has been an Indian consulate in Hamburg since 1952. This reflects the fact that relations between our countries, and especially those between Hamburg and India, have been and remain diverse, friendly and economically beneficial for both sides.
With that in mind may I welcome you most warmly to the opening of India Week Hamburg – as guests, but even more so as friends.
We celebrate this week of meetings and encounters every two years and this is the seventh time we have done so. India Week Hamburg 2017 encompasses 76 events covering a wide range of topics. It includes exhibitions, theatrical performances, films, music and culinary workshops as well as presentations, discussions and seminars on political and economic issues.
Economic developments in India and the challenges posed by the transformation to the digital age were discussed this morning at the chamber of commerce. We are also interested in the tax reform in your country, which has resulted in value-added tax being replaced by a goods and services tax (GST). We will undoubtedly be talking more in the course of the week about the effects of digitisation and the prospects for Indian start-ups in Hamburg. The excellent conditions we can offer here have made our city a top address for start-up companies.
Another focal area covers the numerous events that can be grouped together under the heading of empowerment. Their main thrust concerns emancipation and equal rights for women – a kind of unofficial leitmotif of this year’s India Week which will be touched on at many events. We look forward to the discussions.
Hamburg is a city that is very keen on sports, so we are eager to hear about the latest developments in sporting customs in India or to add a little to what we already know. Quite a few people in Hamburg have been closely involved with yoga for quite some time now, for instance. With cricket it’s a bit different, but that might change because India Week will give several teams from Hamburg and the surrounding region a chance to demonstrate their prowess. By the way, Hamburg is not only the centre of the cricket scene in northern Germany, but also the home of the Indian Football Club – the only one of its kind in Germany.
There are now some 50 Indian companies in Hamburg and around 100 Hamburg companies in India. Germany is India’s most important trading partner in the European Union and the sixth most important worldwide. We wish to extend this success story in Hamburg and continue to be a reliable partner standing firm at India’s side.
It is good that Germany and India should keep each other informed about their political objectives. There was an opportunity do so in the summer at the G20 summit in Hamburg and before that during the regular government consultations between our two countries when Prime Minister Modi and Federal Chancellor Merkel met for talks. One common objective we have is a reform of the United Nations Security Council, in which both our countries aspire to a permanent seat – a goal we work together to achieve. We have also talked to each other about ways in which we can simplify and intensify our mutual trade. We will continue to conduct all these talks in a spirit of mutual trust and understanding.
The seventh India Week Hamburg holds out excellent and inspiring prospects and I thank you for honouring us with your visit. I am confident that the people of Hamburg will seize the opportunities on offer with optimism and commitment. On the last occasion two years ago, there were some 30,000 visitors – a clear indication of the keen interest there is in India and, I would venture to say, of the fascination that flows from India. The India Week Hamburg is a symbol and expression of this mutual interest. It suits Hamburg admirably and we are delighted to be able to open and celebrate India Week with you once again in such a splendid setting. We have a fascinating program ahead of us. I hope very much indeed that you will feel welcome and enjoy the week.
Let us join together in celebrating our success story and the history of a friendship which, despite the great distance between our two countries, remains firm and flourishes. We here in Hamburg see our city as the gate to the world, but we are also the gate to Europe and the gate to Germany. For us the India Week Hamburg provides confirmation that we do justice to this role for our country – and we know that we have cause to thank our Indian partners in this respect.
I wish us all an enjoyable evening and a fascinating, successful India Week Hamburg.