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Indo-German relationship: current state and further opportunities for growth

Admin 2024-02-16


With an already established cooperation, India and Germany can still achieve much more while benefiting from each other.


An active bilateral relationship between Germany and India started after World War II, when India was one of the first states to recognize the Federal Republic of Germany diplomatically. Today, this relationship has developed to a totally different level: Germany is India's most important trading partner within the EU and sixth most important trading partner on a global scale. Apart from that, it could be argued that India considers Germany as a major partner in many other aspects. For example, in the expansion of the Indian industry and in economic reform programmes.

Since 2011, the Indo-German Intergovernmental Consultations have been held every two years, and there are over 70 years of diplomatic relations connecting both countries. In November 2019, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited India accompanied by eleven ministers among which were the Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, and the Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek. The key topics discussed with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and the Indian Government at this meeting were mitigation, digitalization, and education. This last state visit in November 2019 offers us a perfect opportunity to take a closer look at the potential of Indo-German relations in the field of higher education and more.

Indian students in Germany

Over the last 5 years, the number of Indian students in Germany has more than doubled, making them the second-largest group of international students in Germany. According to DAAD, in the Winter Semester of 2018/2019, there were already 20,810 Indian students enrolled at German universities and only Chinese students were more actively represented.

"After all, 20,000 Indians are studying in Germany, and we would be happy to see more", Chancellor Angela Merkel said during her state visit.

The majority of Indian students are coming to Germany to pursue a Master's degree. The second most popular degree is Doctorate, while the Bachelor’s students are quite rare. Speaking of fields of study, according to the Federal Statistical Office, information technology, natural and engineering sciences are among the most popular disciplines while humanities and social sciences are not that widely represented and thus offering the potential for an increase in student numbers.

Quite often Indian students are also receiving a certain form of financial support during their studies in Germany. Indians are among the most successful applicants both for DAAD and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation scholarships. They are also organized in a broad network of student associations and the Embassy of India runs Indian Students in Germany Portal.

Higher education cooperation between India and Germany

Currently, the Indian university system goes through rapid development. According to official figures, India has 903 universities and 39,050 colleges. The number of students is 37.4 million, which corresponds to a student rate of 26.3 % in the 18 to 23 age group.

Unfortunately, with the exception of the country's leading universities, internationalization still plays a subordinate role at many Indian universities. Despite the fact that most universities already have agreements with foreign partners, they often lack the structure to implement their activities. Thus, there is a definite need to optimize this aspect in order to make India more attractive to foreign students and researchers.

Currently, India and Germany have several shared initiatives in the area of education. One of them, Indo-German Partnership programme, which was signed during the 5th Indo-German Intergovernmental Consultations in November 2019. The programme will involve investments of 3.5 million euros from each country and will focus exclusively on strengthening the bilateral cooperation in the field of higher education in 2020-2024.

India’s perspective on skilled labor cooperation

The Indian economy offers a huge potential in the fields of digitalization and artificial intelligence, which, at the same time, are the underrepresented areas in Germany that need more skilled workers. Thus, the cooperation within these fields has a huge potential to benefit both countries. 

Already in 2012, a Dialogue on Skilled Labor Migration was organized in New Delhi under the initiative of the German Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ). Still, there is a lot of work to be done to develop this cooperation into something even more powerful.

Expatrio’s outlook on the Indo-German relations

India's dynamic economic development is expected to continue in the upcoming years with all the chances for the country to become a strong global player. 

Speaking of Indo-German scientific and educational exchanges, there is a definite potential for further growth and development of this relationship. Still, there are some actions to be taken by both countries in order to facilitate the cooperation even more. For example, India could provide its higher education institutions with additional support to speed up internationalization and attract more foreign students. From the German side, the introduction of additional funding opportunities for Indian students could be an action that could stimulate scientific and educational exchanges, involving more students, and providing more diverse educational opportunities for them.

As the second-largest group of international students with well-functioning diaspora networks, Indians play an important role in the internationalization of German universities. Expatrio is actively committed to further support this strong position of Indian students in Germany and to enable even more young talents from India to come to Germany broadening the horizons of their academic or professional careers.

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