Since the German elections are around the corner, it might be salutary to understand what Germany has meant to generations of Indians. German equals quality. This despite the Volkswagon emissions scandal followed by the news that other German carmakers too were indulging in this prevarication.
Some months ago the Indian prime minister was on a transcontinental hugging binge and one of the recipients, Chancellor Angela Merkel, was certainly news on our TV channels. But ask my countrymen about the forthcoming German elections and 99.99 percent of Indians are likely to look bemused.
Merkel is a living paradox. Throughout her chancellorship, she has stood for stability and sanity. Her finest hour was when she decided that Germany should take in a million refugees. (Unfortunately it also managed to revive the fortunes of the far-right AfD and pose a threat to the coalition in power.) But many of us who respect her political acumen, her capacity to grapple with extremely complex problems and her thoughtful responses were disappointed, to say the least, by her harsh inflexibility in the Greek economic crisis.
Fiscal discipline is undoubtedly an absolute must, however the ones who suffer the most in Greece as well as in Italy, Spain and Portugal are not the endemically corrupt who caused the economic crisis but the very poor and the middle class. Let's not forget US President Roosevelt proved pouring good money into a rock-bottom economy can revive it with constant nursing and monitoring.
Again, while her government's decision to call an end to nuclear power was remarkable and environment-friendly, Germany going full steam ahead with coal and exporting it too, is disastrous in fossil-fuel terms.
If elected Angela Merkel must help deal with some very difficult problems. Poland, Hungary and a few other Eastern European countries have forgotten how many millions the EU poured into their empty coffers when they joined. Now, they are doing away with judicial independence and embracing the most regressive nationalistic agendas. The future of German-Turkish relations is a big headache. Merkel along with French President Macron and others, however, must address a fact that is frankly rarely, if ever articulated.
The integrity and greatest strength of the EU is that it is a counterbalance to the US, a counterbalance not as the Soviet Union was but as a bastion of sanity, of humanity, of economic self-dependence, giving the poor and deprived a helping hand and dignity and all those ideals which the enlightened in the world treasure and want to live by.
At the moment the election results in Germany seem to be a forgone conclusion. Most likely, Merkel and her Christian Democrats will continue to lead the country. As a rule I would go along with what political wisdom has always maintained:
1. A democracy needs a strong and articulate opposition to keep the ruling party on its toes and force it to translate its lofty promises into actual action.
And 2. However good or popular the elected head of the state is, she/he must bow out after the second term because a democracy needs fresh ideas and vibrant political culture and choices. Just think, if elected Ms Merkel will be in office for a fourth term. This should make all of us stop and think.
But just look at the current world scenario: a lunatic megalomaniac with all his 900 feet in his mouth rules the one and only super-power, US; a Brexit Britain which can't even tell where its own self-interest lies; a whole chunk of the eastern EU which is happy to abandon its democratic values; and my own country, India which is besotted with an exclusive Hindutva nationalism. Surely, you've got my drift.
So for the time-being, I will eat my words and wish that not only Germany but the whole world would elect Merkel as its chancellor.
Kiran Nagarkar is one of the most significant writers in post-colonial India. In 2012, he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit, Germany's highest individual honor.Kiran Nagarkar