BERLIN – The leaders of Germany and India heaped mutual praise upon each other Tuesday — each referring to the other as a "reliable partner" in a notable contrast to Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent public doubts about Germany's ties with the United States.
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Merkel suggested that Europe's relationship with the U.S. had shifted significantly following last week's NATO and G-7 meetings with President Donald Trump that produced disappointing results, saying Saturday that "the times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days."
Asked Tuesday whether her meetings with senior officials from India and China this week signaled a pivot away from Germany's old ally in Washington, Merkel sought to dampen speculation of a major rift.
"The trans-Atlantic partnership is of outstanding importance and what I said was merely meant to note that in view of the current situation there are more reasons ... for us in Europe to take our fate into our own hands," Merkel told reporters in Berlin.
Speaking after a meeting with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she went out of her way to laud the South Asian country as a "reliable partner" on major projects and noted that India was working hard to implement the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
"India wants the world not just to be interconnected but also that it should be sensibly run," Merkel said, backing European Union talks for a trade agreement with India.
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Climate and trade were the two main issue of contention between the United States and other members at the G-7 summit of major economies in Sicily last week, and the topics look set to flare up again soon.
Trump criticized Germany's trade surplus with the United States on Tuesday, tying the issue to Berlin's military spending.
"We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change," he tweeted.
"Donald Trump is making clear with his tweet that he considers Germany a political opponent," said Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary caucus leader of the Social Democrats, the junior partners in Merkel's coalition government. "This is a new situation — we lived for decades in the certainty that we could rely on each other as partners in an alliance, and this certainty no longer exists today."
Trump has also said he plans to make a decision this week on whether to withdraw the United States from the Paris accord — widely considered a key achievement of the Obama administration and a necessary measure if the world wants to avoid a sharp rise in global temperatures.
For his part, Modi declared that "the world needs a strong leadership, which is demonstrated by Chancellor Merkel."
"Germany is a large, reliable and trustworthy partner for us," he added.
Merkel is scheduled to meet with China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Wednesday.
Geir Moulson contributed to this report.
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