RSS is part of Indian ‘mosaic’: German envoy

Explaining the comment, Mr. Lindner said that as a German, he was conscious of the organisation’s history during the 1930-40s, including the inspiration some of its leaders had drawn from Germany’s Nazi movement and had discussed that with Mr. Bhagwat. “I asked many questions on radicalism, and there are no simple answers to these questions,” the Ambassador said. “The [RSS] is one part of the mosaic that makes up India. You can’t deny that this is a mass movement and whether one likes it or not, it is out there,” he asserted. The Ambassador’s visit to the RSS headquarters came in for criticism on social media, and led to an online petition filed by an American scholar on South Asia Pieter Friedrich, with more than 1,000 signatories who are demanding that the Ambassador “resign or be recalled.” The Ambassador’s visit to Nagpur is part of a India-wide tour to various cities to discuss bilateral ties ahead of the biannual India-Germany summit expected in October or November this year, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Delhi. At the top of the bilateral agenda is trade, and reviving the India-European Union (EU) talks on a Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), which has made very little progress since 2013, despite several attempts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ms. Merkel to give it a fillip. Germany is India’s most important trading partner in the EU and its sixth most important trading partner worldwide. As a result of the impasse on BTIA talks, India-Germany trade has been pegged around $20 billion despite the potential for more, say officials, with about 1,700 German companies active in India, about 200 Indian companies active in Germany and more than 600 Indo-German joint ventures in operation. Known for his prolific presence on Twitter, Mr. Lindner, who presented his credentials in May, has been most famous thus far for his championing a cherry-red Hindustan Ambassador car over the more sophisticated German marques like BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Fondly referred to as “Auntie Amby” by Mr. Lindner, the diplomat sees the car as part of what he called soft “empathetic” diplomacy.

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