Are Indians more honest than we think

"The Indians have a tendency to moralize"

You write that long negotiations are viewed positively in India. In Germany, on the other hand, it was seen as a serious problem in 2017, when the formation of a coalition dragged on for 171 days.

It would not have been any different in India. But when it comes to business and trade agreements, the Indian side wants to show through long negotiations that it is giving everything for its cause. The Americans, on the other hand, arrive on a tight schedule and are always only concerned with interests. Indians have a penchant for storytelling and moralizing. The question “Why don't you want to make concessions in agriculture?” Is usually followed by a long lecture. At the end there are arguments like: You are killing millions of our farmers.

Sounds like blackmail.

I wouldn't call it that. There is a different cultural background, especially since these statements are intended at least as much for the domestic audience as they are for the negotiating partners. But of course: When arguing with dying farmers, it is difficult to find a compromise.

What do Indians think about globalization?

I have conducted many interviews and would say that under Narendra Modi ...

... who has been Prime Minister since 2014 ...

... has turned extreme skepticism into hope. In terms of trade, there is still a lot of protectionism, but great strides have been made in combating climate change. For a long time India was seen as a brake on the brakes, it was often said to the west: You are already developed, now it's our turn, so don't force your view of things on us! Modi knows how to tie in with traditional ideas. The Chinese are now trying to do that too. It is therefore important that we know the traditions so that we can understand how they are used and abused. I think it was during a visit to Germany in 2015 when Modi said for the first time that we don't have to be told how to protect nature, we Indians worshiped trees a long time ago.

Did you have a culture shock when you came to Germany?

No. Although I spent my childhood in Delhi and most of my adult life in the UK, I knew Germany quite well. My father is a physicist and had many contacts here. When I was little he was at what was then the nuclear research center in Karlsruhe, later I visited him at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, and we looked around the country a bit. Nevertheless, some things in Germany surprised me and, to be honest, disappointed me too.


Britain is a class society. I imagined Germany to be very egalitarian. But in academic life there is an old guard who defends their turf. Perhaps it is because German universities have not faced international competition for a long time, or it has something to do with the German tendency towards cosiness. That is why the excellence initiatives are so important, they promote international openness. I notice that some people have trouble accepting someone like me, an outside woman who looks relatively young. Some read somewhere “Prof. Narlikar ”and ask about my husband.

The people of Hamburg have a reputation for being “pepper sacks”: rich, sometimes ruthless merchants.

For me they are more typical northern lights, that is, more reserved than the people in the south, who can appear friendlier at first. I like their directness and that once you become friends with them, they are real friends too. It's a shame that people always see Hamburg as a commercial and never as a university city. We have such good academic institutions here.

We thought that the trading city of Hamburg as a centuries-old transhipment point for goods should be of professional interest to you.

Naturally. What excites me about trade policy, however, are the economic theories. Trading is one of the few areas where there can be truly win-win business, and yet it often doesn't exist. That's such an interesting problem! Actually, I wanted to become an archaeologist, at the university I first studied ancient Indian history.

To home page