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Merkel pledges a billion euros for solar energy

Giving a push for clean energy, Germany on Monday pledged about 1 billion euros (Rs 7,300 crore) assistance for India's solar projects as the two countries decided to forge a renewable alliance to boost cooperation in the sector.

The third Germany-India inter-governmental consultations saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi describing Germany as a 'natural partner' for India's economic transformation and said climate change and clean energy are areas witnessing a high level of convergence and growing cooperation.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's three-day visit to India also provided a leg up to EU-India ties with both leaders committing themselves to restarting talks for the stalled FTA while MoUs signed spanned manufacturing, skill development, education, railways, food safety and security reflecting the depth of the India-Germany strategic relationship.

Germany also welcomed India's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted to the United Nations last week, foreign secretary S Jaishankar said.

MoUs were signed on aviation security, which will see the use of sky marshals. India agreed to fast-track investments by setting up a special facility for German companies and businesses with Indian promising a "single-point clearance" by March 2016. Both the countries also discussed cooperation in defence manufacturing using Modi's 'Make in India' initiative.

Merkel and Modi emphasized their strong commitment to the EU-India Broad-Based Trade and Investment Agreement (FTA) and committing to bringing about a resumption of negotiations as soon as possible.

It must be noted that the negotiations for EU-India FTA have remained stalled with India expressing concern over issues such as data security and EU seeking to place restrictions on sale of more than 700 Indian drugs.

While the focus has been on economic ties between the two countries, they also signed a broad-based MoU on security which will see the countries working together to prevent terror recruitment, financing and propaganda.

Modi and Merkel reaffirmed the urgent need for comprehensive reform of the Security Council, particularly its expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories.

They also discussed the situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan and West Asia, apart from maritime security in Indian Ocean. Merkel spoke about Europe's refugee crisis and also the situation in Ukraine.

While India denied Merkel spoke about the issue of human rights in India, the joint statement said both leaders emphasized their commitment to the "protection of human rights and democratic values."