Germany has expressed its keen interest in the production of six advanced submarines for the Indian Navy as part of a $5.2 billion joint venture with Indian shipbuilders under the ‘Make In India’ initiative. This move underscores Berlin’s determination to steer New Delhi away from Moscow in terms of weapons procurement.
The bilateral talks held on Tuesday between German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius and his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh in New Delhi placed significant emphasis on the submarine deal.
Pistorius arrived in India on Monday for an official four-day visit, marking the first time in eight years that a German Defence Minister has visited India.
During the meeting, Defence Minister Pistorius informed Singh that Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), a subsidiary of the German conglomerate Thyssenkrupp, is eager to bid for India’s submarine project known as P75 (India) or P75 (I). The Strategic Partnership (SP) model of the Ministry of Defence, which mandates foreign equipment manufacturers to collaborate with domestic producers, will be followed for the construction of six stealth submarines for the Indian Navy.
“We are discussing the matter of these six submarines. The German defence industry, particularly the manufacturers, possesses an exceptional reputation. However, it is no secret that there are competitors. We support India’s preferred principle of ‘Make in India.’ We believe it is the right approach,” stated Pistorius during a media briefing following the meeting.
He further added, “This collaboration must be organized between the companies involved, as well as the companies based here.”
In June 2021, the Ministry of Defence introduced a proposal to construct six next generation submarines for the Indian Navy, equipped with modern Air Independent Propulsion System (AIP) technology, enabling extended underwater operation periods. These submarines will also be equipped with missiles and torpedoes, with an estimated cost exceeding Rs 45,000 crore.
Pistorius emphasized the significance of defence as a fundamental pillar of the strategic partnership between the two nations. He stated, “This submarine deal could become a flagship project. We discussed the progress made thus far and the steps involved. There seems to be great interest in this initiative. We aim to enhance military cooperation with the Navy and the Air Force as a whole.”
Germany’s plan to manufacture submarines in India under the P75 (I) project gained momentum after Chancellor Olaf Scholz advocated for it during his visit to India in February of this year. Germany had previously expressed discontent over the conditions imposed by India under the SP model.
Defence Minister Singh took to Twitter and shared, “Had fruitful discussions with the German Defence Minister, Mr. Boris Pistorius… We deliberated on regional matters and our shared priorities. We have also agreed to further strengthen defence cooperation between India and Germany.”
Germany considers India to be the most important strategic partner for Europe, as well as the European Union (EU) as a whole in the Indo-Pacific region, sending a strong message to China.
“The focus of Germany and Europe, to varying degrees, was excessively centered on economic relations with China. There was inadequate attention given to the political implications and developments in the Indo-Pacific region, including India. This reluctance to provide arms and other resources led India to rely more on Russia,” explained Pistorius when questioned about Germany’s decision to supply arms to India.
He acknowledged that it was an incorrect decision on Germany’s part to withhold adequate defence platforms from India when it required them the most.
“Now, circumstances have changed, and it is clear that India is an important, if not the most important, strategic partner for Europe and Germany. Therefore, we must treat it as such,” Pistorius affirmed, highlighting Germany’s intention to accord India the same treatment as its other allies, such as Japan and Australia.
India has also sought German investments in the two upcoming defence industrial corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
“The Defence Minister highlighted the opportunities available in the defence production sector, including the potential for German investments in the Defence Industrial Corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu,” stated a release by the Ministry of Defence.
It further added, “The Indian defence industry has the opportunity to contribute to the supply chains of the German defence industry, thereby enhancing the ecosystem and ensuring supply chain resilience.”
On June 7, the German Defence Minister is scheduled to visit the Western Naval Command headquarters and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. (MDL) in Mumbai. If Germany wins the bid, MDL could become a strategic partner for TKMS in the manufacturing of submarines.
Apart from Germany, South Korea, and Spain are also competing for India’s submarine deal.