German interest in India has a long history but it entered a new phase after the Second World War when Nehru and Adenauer established diplomatic relations between the independent Republic of India and the new Federal Republic of Germany. The steel plant at Rourkela, the IIT Madras (Chennai) and the establishment of German cultural institutes (Max Mueller Bhavan) marked the beginning of closer cooperation. The opening of the South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University in the presence of Vijayalakshmi Pandit in 1962 also belongs to these early highlights.
Indira Gandhi’s economic policy and the transatlantic preoccupations of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt then marked a period of mutual indifference. The last two decades of the 20th century witnessed a revival of closer cooperation. The Indo-German Consultative Group which held its first meeting in 1992 as well as the Indo-German Parliamentary Group helped to strengthen this cooperation. Academic contacts fostered by the German Academic Exchange Service and recently also by the German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) and by the Max Planck Society as well as the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation must also be mentioned in the context of intensified cooperation. All these form the basis for a ever increasing Indo-German engagement.
Dietmar Rothermund is professor emeritus of South Asian History at Heidelberg University. He has been director of the South Asia Institute for 15 years, and is one of the widest published and translated European scholars on South Asia, and particularly India. His seminal works include 'A History of India' co-authored by Herman Kulke, 'An economic history of India', and 'India: the rise of an Asian giant'.
This event is jointly organised by the Federation of Indo-German Societies in India (FIGS) and the Heidelberg Center South Asia (HCSA).