Germany and India both voiced hope on Wednesday that the South Asian power can soon strike a free trade deal with the European Union, during a meeting of foreign ministers in Berlin. The ministers met ahead of dinner talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Thursday's second Indo-German intergovernmental consultations, launched in 2011 in New Delhi. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle praised India, with its 1.2 billion people, as a "great nation," "a power centre on the rise" and an "economic success story that has shifted the weight in the world." He added: "We have many partners in the world, but India is a democracy, the biggest democracy in the world." Westerwelle said Germany supports an India-European Union trade and investment pact, which would remove most tariff and non-tariff barriers. Talks for the deal were first launched in 2007. "We believe that a free trade agreement between the EU and India would point the way toward more growth and prosperity" in both countries, he said. Some stumbling blocks have included foreign access to India's automobile and alcoholic beverage sectors and its insurance market. India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said the trade talks should now move from the level of technocrats to statesmen. He thanked Germany for its support on the negotiations, which he said "will be concluded hopefully soon", and called the EU's biggest economy a "constant companion, friend, strategic partner." Days ahead of a visit by the Indian delegation to Brussels on the trade issue, he said "the support coming ... from countries such as Germany will help us cross the Rubicon as quickly as possible." Indian media have voiced concern that a deal must be reached soon or could be delayed for years more as the EU and United States aim to start talks this summer to forge a transatlantic free trade deal.