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India hopes for robust regional partnership with Nordic countries during PM Modi’s visit to Europe

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Prime Minister Modi’s tour to Copenhagen for a bilateral visit and to participate in the second India-Nordic Summit will contribute significantly to realize the immense untapped potential for cooperation (File images courtesy: PIB)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will undertake his first foreign visit this year to Germany, Denmark and France next week.

Some of PM Modi’s most significant engagements during his three-day visit which starts from May 2 would probably be in Denmark. Copenhagen will not only witness a bilateral visit, but also the second India-Nordic Summit with leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. 

The first India-Nordic Summit was held in Stockholm in April, 2018. The second Summit was earlier scheduled to take place last year in June, 2021 but had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a measure of the keen interest of all countries concerned that the Summit has been re-convened without much delay.

PM Modi will meet the Prime Ministers of the five countries together, followed by one-to-one meetings with the Prime ministers individually. The significance of this event can be assessed from the fact that the United States is the only other country with which the Nordic states have an engagement at the summit level.

India-Nordic Summit

India and the Nordic states have huge strengths and complementarities. They share a convergence in values in freedom of speech, religion and media; all are free market economies; all of them promote gender equality, women empowerment, social justice, human rights, and law and order. The Nordic countries have created an extremely peaceful zone of political and economic stability.

Nordic countries collectively represent an economy of more than US$1.6 trillion with a population of just above 27 million allowing a very high standard of living. They enjoy high GDP per capita and rank high in the Human Development Index.

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India’s combined trade in goods and services with Nordic countries is expected to touch US$6.5 billion in 2021-22. Cumulative FDI received from Nordic countries (from April 2000 -March 2021) is US$3.34 billion. There are more than 700 Nordic companies present in India and close to 150 Indian companies in the Nordic region. As per Nordic statistics, total bilateral trade between India and Nordic countries is US$13 billion.

Nordic

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with other leaders at India-Nordic Summit in Stockholm on April 17, 2018

Over the last four years, PM Modi has interacted extensively with all the Nordic leaders. These include: Virtual Summits with Denmark; Sweden; and Finland. The Norwegian PM visited India in 2019 and the Danish PM in October 2021. The King and Queen of Sweden visited India in December 2019. Nordic countries also participated actively in Vibrant Gujarat Summits in recent years.

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Notwithstanding the harsh climatic conditions, as well as their small populations, all these countries figure amongst the top achievers in several areas of human endeavour particularly innovation, clean energy, green technologies, renewable energy, sustainability, education, health-care, conversion of waste to energy, transparency, good governance, social justice, human rights, rule of law, and much more. This presents enormous opportunities for India to plug into the strengths of these countries to mutual benefit.

It makes eminent political and economic sense for these countries to also step up their engagement with India. India is the third largest global economy at US$9trillion in purchasing power parity terms. It is also the fastest growing major economy with annual GDP growth of 7.4% in 2022-’23, after taking into account the adverse impacts of the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Several wide-ranging initiatives have been taken by India in recent years including the Goods and Services Tax etc. which have significantly increased its attractiveness as a business and investment destination. Many new flagship schemes have been launched, including Make in India, Atmanirbhar Bharat, Smart Cities, Skill India, Start-up India, Digital India etc. in which companies from Nordic countries can develop win-win solutions. India presents an ideal opportunity to these countries because of its large market as also its youth dividend. Populations in all Nordic countries are greying and hence the young, educated, skilled and motivated population of India can meet an acutely felt demand in these countries. These countries need large and assured markets as reliable commercial partners. India eminently meets this requirement.

Maintaining peace, ensuring security and promoting sustainable economic development of the Arctic Region is another area which presents immense possibilities to strengthen bilateral partnership.

The first India-Nordic Summit in 2018 reiterated the six countries’ commitment towards cooperation in global security, economic growth, innovation and climate change. The leaders also underlined the importance of free trade as a catalyst for achieving inclusive growth and realising the Sustainable Development Goals. Common linkages were established between the Nordic region’s culture of innovation, clean technology, maritime solutions, port modernisation, food processing, health, life sciences and agriculture, and India’s vast pool of skills and resources. Specifically, the summit re-energised the Nordic Sustainable Cities Project aimed at supporting the Smart Cities Programme of India.

In the second Summit, leaders need to build on the success and progress in relations in the preceding years. Discussions on the fast-changing security architecture in Europe in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as also on Indo-Pacific, are likely to be held.

India-Denmark Cooperation

India and Denmark have historically enjoyed warm and mutually beneficial relations. Bilateral ties after hitting a rough patch in 2012 due to the Purulia Arms case, witnessed an upswing with India’s decision in 2017 to normalise relations. The ball was set rolling by the visit of former Danish PM Rasmussen to India for the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in January, 2019. This was followed by a virtual Summit between PM Modi and Danish PM Mette Frederiksen in September, 2020 which witnessed the launch of the Green Strategic Partnership--the first of its kind entered into by both the countries.

This has become a catalyst for enhanced cooperation and is serving as a template for the rest of the world to emulate. Bilateral ties soared with the visit of PM Frederiksen to India in October, 2021when the two Prime Ministers agreed to expand collaboration in agriculture technology, including food safety, cold chain, food processing, fertilizers, fisheries, aquaculture, etc. New areas of cooperation like Smart Water Resource Management, Waste to Best and efficient supply chain management were also identified. Numerous opportunities exist for Danish Pension Funds to invest in India’s infrastructure sector, renewable energy, Real Estate etc.

Leaders inked two agreements on research in climate change and on setting up a “green hydrogen” electrolyser plant. This was the first visit by a Head of Government to India following the COVID-19 pandemic, which mirrors the extremely close partnership that India and Denmark enjoy.

Conclusion

Prime Minister Modi’s tour to Copenhagen for a bilateral visit and to participate in the second India-Nordic Summit will contribute significantly to realize the immense untapped potential for cooperation. Notwithstanding the explosion of information today, a huge information gap exists between these countries. Decision and policy makers as well as common people in India have scant knowledge about the Nordic countries, and vice versa.

It is essential to give more energy to this blossoming partnership. The welcome initiative of the India-Nordic Summit needs to be nurtured constantly.

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