Martin Ney, ambassador of Germany to India, talks about his love for Bollywood, plans to explore more areas in the country and being mesmerised by the Ganga aarti in Varanasi. Shrabasti Mallik takes notes
When did you come to India?
It has been three years since I came here as the ambassador of Germany. I remember being delighted to be given this fantastic assignment, especially at a time when India was developing rapidly. It has been quite rewarding to head a dedicated team that is ambitious to strengthen bilateral ties.
How has the experience been so far?
When the posting was being decided by the German Federal Cabinet, I spoke to my wife about it and she said, “You wanted either an adventure or a big responsibility. Now you’re getting both.” But never before in a new posting have I had a more heartwarming welcome than in India. An old Indian friend had insisted my wife and I have dinner at their house and meet their friends before being inducted into the embassy. It was a heartening experience!
What are the similarities you find between Germany and India?
Both countries embrace democracy and have shared strong bilateral ties for several years. Several renowned Germans such as the famous Indologist Max Müller and literary figures such as Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse had taken interest in India’s diverse culture and traditions. India is also one of the few countries with whom we conduct close strategic dialogues.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in April 2018 and will meet again, with their full cabinets, for inter-governmental consultations in 2019.
Where have you travelled to in India?
I am fortunate to have been able to visit quite a number of places – be it for official purposes or for leisure. Recently, I have been to Hampi and the Andaman Islands and both experiences – the historical significance of the former and the tranquillity and charm of the latter – have left a strong impression on me.
Is there any place in India that you wish to travel to?
India is such a vast country that even after spending three years here, I have not been able to see half of it. But I wish to visit the caves of Ajanta and Ellora.
What are the five things that you would suggest an Indian to do in Germany?
From stunning attractions to leisurely activities, Germany offers incredible diversity. There are breathtaking castles, such as Neuschwanstein in the Bavarian Alps. One can explore the country’s green cover in one of the 16 national parks. For car lovers, a visit to the famed Mercedes-Benz or BMW museums is a must.
An Indian should not miss the extravagant Christmas markets in cosy towns such as Rothenburg, or more famously, in Nuremberg, my birthplace, which boasts rich architectural heritage. According to a survey, three of the world’s top 10 most liveable cities are in Germany: Munich, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt.
What would you suggest a German to do in India?
The country is so vast, colourful and diverse that it is difficult to name a few highlights. I would encourage Germans to spend some time in India, travel to different places, experience the various cultures and discover what intrigues them the most about the land. From the towering peaks of the Himalayas to the waterbodies of Kerala, and from the Thar desert in Rajasthan to the green hills of the Northeast, India has it all.
You are a trained flautist. Have you listened to any Indian musicians?
On my third weekend in India, I watched a performance by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. I find Indian classical music fascinating. The improvisations on stage, the rhythms and the atmosphere of the auditorium, all combine to create a truly magical experience. Tell us about your experiences with Air India. A particularly positive experience I had with Air India was during a state visit of our President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in March. We flew Air India from Delhi to Varanasi and back, and the airline did everything to make the first day of the visit a success