France and Germany are no longer post-war friends. German Chancellor is the de facto leader of the European Union (EU). But French President Emmanuel Macron wants to take over leadership of the Brussels-based intergovernmental bloc. And now, Macron has started supporting New Delhi against Berlin’s anti-India rhetoric over vaccine supplies. By doing so, Macron is giving Germany a cold shoulder and also making it look bad.
At the India-European Union (EU) virtual summit held on Saturday, Macron once again spoke in support of India. His remarks clearly militated against Merkel’s anti-India policies. Macron has, thus, set the agenda of Franco-German rivalry around Europe’s relationship with New Delhi.
The virtual India-EU summit was also attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU president Ursula von der Leyen. And therefore, Macron’s message was clearly aimed at the German Chancellor and also the rest of Europe.
Macron said, “India does not need to listen to lectures from anyone about vaccine supplies. India has exported a lot for humanity to many countries. We know what situation India is in.”
Macron is right. India has only helped the world fight the Pandemic by supplying vaccines to as many as 95 countries as a part of its “Vaccine Maitri” initiative.
Macron’s remarks are, however, a huge setback to Merkel who has been running an anti-India campaign over the recent past. Merkel has been critical of India’s pharmaceutical industry and vaccine policies. Therefore, Macron chose to praise India’s vaccine policy on purpose. It was an attempt to take an indirect jibe on Merkel.
Recently, Germany rejected the US proposal to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines. German opposition to the patent waiver was most probably aimed at not letting India produce more vaccines, as that would further bolster India’s global pharma leadership. By augmenting its vaccine production, India would be able to tackle the latest surge of Coronavirus cases in the country, apart from gathering even more soft power by expanding its vaccine imports.
Merkel has, in fact, been regularly criticising India’s vaccine policy. She was quoted by POLITICO as saying, “We now have a situation with India where, in connection with the emergency situation of the pandemic, we are worried whether the pharmaceutical products will still come to us.”
The German Chancellor also said, “Of course, we have only allowed India to become such a large pharmaceutical producer in the first place, also from the European side, in the expectation that this should then also be complied with. If that is not the case now, we will have to rethink.”
Needless to mention, Germany and France have entirely different perspectives on India’s role in the pharmaceutical sector and vaccine supplies. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel habitually engages in anti-India rhetoric, Macron has been giving a cold shoulder to Berlin. The French President envisages a formidable Indo-French alliance in order to take on China. And this is clearly putting Berlin and Paris at loggerheads in their public discourse.
Merkel was, in fact, trying to damage India’s booming pharma industry. But Macron’s message is loud and clear- India’s vaccine policies are fair and praiseworthy. As such, Paris is ready to stand in way of Merkel’s anti-India policies. Merkel may want to derail India’s vaccine manufacturing, but Macron is not going to let her do that. By defying Merkel’s ambitions, Macron is challenging Germany’s de facto EU leadership.