India, Sweden vow to deepen ties; Swedish PM hails India as ‘democratic superpower’

New Delhi, Mar 5 (PTI) India and Sweden on Friday vowed to deepen partnership in several sectors such as climate change, defence, trade and investment as Prime Minister Narendra Modi deliberated on strengthening ties with his Swedish counterpart Stefan Lofven who hailed India as a “democratic superpower”.

In his opening remarks at a virtual summit with the Swedish prime minister, Modi said shared values such as democracy, human rights, rule of law, equality, freedom and justice strengthen the relations and mutual cooperation between India and Sweden.

“We can further our relationship in innovation, technology, investment, start-ups and research,” he said.

Prime Minister Lofven announced Sweden’s decision to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA) which was welcomed by Modi who stated that Sweden’s expertise and experience in clean and renewable technologies would contribute significantly to the ISA and “our collective efforts to meet the challenge of Climate Change”.

“Smart cities, water treatment, waste management, circular economy, smart grids, e-mobility, digital transformation and several other sectors have potential where we can deepen our partnership,” Modi said.

In his remarks, Lofven said India and the European Union are “democratic superpowers” and as “we join forces” to build back more inclusive societies it is more important than ever to reaffirm “our shared values and mutual commitment to democracy, rule of law, gender equality, human rights and fundamental rights”.

A joint statement issued after the talks said they underlined that the longstanding close relations between India and Sweden are based on shared values of democracy, rule of law, pluralism, equality, freedom of speech, and respect for human rights.

The two prime ministers reiterated their strong commitment to multilateralism and peace and security.

The two leaders acknowledged that there is a need for far greater transparency and accountability in the way many of the deliberations and decisions are made at the UN, the statement said.

Modi and Lofven also reaffirmed the need for wider reform of global governance structures towards greater democracy, transparency and fairness, and to better reflect contemporary realities.

In his initial remarks, Modi also expressed solidarity with the people of Sweden on behalf of all Indian citizens for the recent violent attacks in that country and wished for a speedy recovery of those injured.

He also expressed condolences for the loss of lives in Sweden due to COVID-19.

Modi said the important issue of climate change is a priority for both the countries and the two can work together on this.

“India’s culture has always stressed on the importance of living in harmony with nature. We are moving ahead on our commitments made under the Paris Agreement. We will not just achieve these targets, but even exceed them. Amongst G20 countries, India has progressed well on its targets. In the last five years, our renewable power capacity has increased by 162 per cent,” he said.

Modi said India provided medicines and other essential items to more than 150 countries while the world was fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Till now, we have delivered Made-in-India vaccine to nearly 50 countries across the globe and in the next few days, we are committed to delivering it to several more,” he added.

Later, at a media briefing, Secretary West in the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup, said the two leaders noted the growing membership of the India-Sweden joint initiative — the Leadership Group on Industry Transition (LeadIT) that was launched during the UN Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary General in September 2019 in New York.

They also reviewed the extensive ongoing engagement, and expressed satisfaction at the implementation of the Joint Action Plan and Joint Innovation Partnership agreed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Sweden in 2018.

Swarup said that during the talks the two leaders agreed to revive dialogue at the level of NSA and discussed cooperation between the two National Security Council Secretariats.

In response to a question, Swarup also said that young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s recent comments on the farmers’ protests in India do not form a bilateral issue between India and Sweden, and the matter did not come up during the summit between the prime ministers of the two countries.

Amid interests shown by Swedish company Saab to manufacture its Gripen fighter aircraft in India, the prime ministers of the two countries also noted that defence is an important area of a long-standing collaboration.

The leaders also welcomed the finalisation of the General Security Agreement in 2019 on the exchange and mutual protection of classified information, enabling a comprehensive partnership in all defence sectors, he said.

Prime Minister Modi invited Swedish defence firms to participate in the “Make in India programme , especially in the two Defence Production Corridors in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

The two leaders praised healthcare workers across the globe for their efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and stressed the need for a rapid, affordable, and equitable global distribution of vaccines.

They also welcomed the proposal of an MoU on Aviation Knowledge Exchange and Technical Transfer Programme, and of an MoU on cooperation between financial services to enhance cross-border participation and promote knowledge sharing.