Europe Grasps India's 'Neighbour Trouble' Better After Putin's War: German Envoy

Outgoing German ambassador Walter Lindner says that India has a challenging neighbourhood.

3 min read
Europe Grasps India's 'Neighbour Trouble' Better After Putin's War: German Envoy

Walter Lindner is set to bid adieu to his diplomacy career on a sharp note. His tenure as Germany's Ambassador to India comes to an end on 1 July and he's not upset about it.

"Wisdom—if at all—of ripe age is one thing but new and younger ideas need space. Old people must make way for the younger lot everywhere."

A committed Indophile, who worked odd jobs as a young man to be able to travel to India, Lindner is said to have brought colour and warmth to the grey, pinstriped world of diplomacy. As Germany gears up to face the consequences of the raging Russia-Ukraine conflict, Lindner still bats for non-military ways to contain Putin.

"Germany had a role in starting the first World War and it caused WWII. We in Germany take this history of ours seriously. We don't take the possibility of a third World War as a joke. If there is WWIII, it will mean the end of all of us."

But what does this war mean to India?


Russia-Ukraine War and India

Lindner says that India's response to the Russia-Ukraine war—including its votes in the United Nation fora—do not impact New Delhi-Berlin relationships. This is a time when the importance of friends and allies is being understood the best. "Allies need not agree with each other on everything. As long as there is a common minimum understanding, it's enough."

Responding to The Quint's question on whether this war in Europe has made the West look differently towards other territorial conflicts like India-China, Lindner says that Europe has certainly undergone a change in these terms. "There is increased sensitivity towards aggression. If it can happen to Ukraine, it can happen to any other country in the world. If Putin gets away with attacking a neighbour, other leaders may feel encouraged to do the same."

Lindner states emphatically that it is vital to stop Putin by using sanctions and by foiling his plan to weaponise energy resources. It's because of this war that Europe is beginning to invest in military prowess and putting its post-WWII agenda of development on the back burner. "We do not want to do it, we are being forced."

India's Neighbourhood Problem: Pakistan and China

A musician, a traveller, a lawyer: Lindner brought multiple facets of his life when he got posted to New Delhi almost three-and-a-half years ago. His perception of India, which was once admittedly naive, may have undergone a change but his love for this country has not diminished. "When I came to India for the first time as a young man, I was disappointed to see so many Europeans coming here and doing nothing but getting high on ganja. Of course, India was not a place where everyone mediated all day long under a banyan tree."

Lindner does not mince his words about India's problems. "Angela Merkel used to love interacting with Indian prime ministers if only to know how on earth were they able to govern this country." Lindner acknowledges the diversity and contradictions of India and stays optimistic about India's potential to overcome internal difficulties owing to the rise in fanaticism.

The outgoing German ambassador also acknowledges that India has a neighbourhood problem.

Replying to The Quint's question on whether his stated love for India has caused him any diplomatic unease in dealing with Pakistan and China, Lindner swears by "open-mindedness". He shares that India's ancient wisdom encourages one to have an open mind towards everyone. "There are good and bad people everywhere. I like to deal with the former. I like to listen to everyone's side of the story and then make up my mind about what is right and what is wrong."


Lindner extends this courtesy of careful listening to not just people but also his beloved red-coloured Ambassador car. Fondly called Amby, Lindner's ubiquitous ride has an enviable celebrity status in Delhi.

Germany's  Ambassador to India Walter J Lindner

Photo Courtesy: Twitter

Upon being asked about the future of Amby, Lindner shares that Amby will decide her own future. "I'll listen to what she has to say. If she wants to retire in peace in a garage, it's cool. If she likes a prospective new companion, I'll be okay with that, too."

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