Enlarging partnership

Danish PM Visit

By Dr D.K. Giri
(Prof. International Relations, JIMMC)

Prime Minister of Denmark Ms. Mette Frederiksen was in Delhi October 9 to 11. In fact, this was the first visit by a foreign Head of Government to New Delhi after Covid-19 pandemic. Interestingly, the visit did not attract much media attention although there were large hoardings put across the city. This may be for two reasons. One, Denmark is a tiny country population wise, of 5.8 million. Second, New Delhi and Copenhagen have had a rough patch in the bilateralism due to the controversial arms drop case.
However, the Danish Prime Minister considered New Delhi visit as a big milestone for the relations between the two countries. She said in one of the functions organised in her honour, “We consider India as a close partner. I see this visit as a milestone for Denmark-India bilateral relations. Again, speaking at the ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhawan, Frederiksen stated that she views Indian government being ambitious on the issue of green transition in India and the rest of the world.
In fact, the evolving partnership between India and Denmark is said to be a green partnership. The focus was on building green technology, green jobs and a green economy. The discussion centred on review in the progress in green strategic partnership, which was set up during the virtual summit held a year ago in September 2020. Prime Minister Modi said that, “A year ago today we took the historic decision to establish a green strategic partnership between India and Denmark. This is a sign of far reaching thinking and respect for the environment by both the countries. The Danish Prime Minister complemented it, “The cooperation between India and Denmark is a great example of how green growth and green transition can go hand in hand.”
Interestingly, both countries realise the possibility of synergy in green economy between two countries. The Danish Prime Minister underlined that Denmark has skills in the field of green technologies, whereas India has the scale to use these for the benefit of a population of more than a billion. Both delegations were high on the five-year action plan agreed to take forward the one of its kind green strategic partnership. The plan, 2021-26 aims to consolidate low carbon growth emphasises on sectors like RE, water, Climate Action, Circular Economy, smart cities, maritime cooperation, food and agriculture and health and life science. Actually, it covers everything under the sun.
Having said the above, India and Denmark have strong trade and investment cooperation. There are more than 200 Danish companies working in different sectors and over 60 Indian companies presenting Denmark. Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed that he had a fruitful talk with his Danish counterpart for the sake of expanding the cooperation. They covered a range of key areas, including health, agriculture, water management, climate change and of course, renewable energy.
Customarily, India and Denmark signed four agreements, which will provide for deepening of cooperation in the areas of science and technology, climate change, and skill building. The first agreement was signed between Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and National Geographical Research Institute, Hyderabad with Aarhus University, Denmark and Geographical Survey of Denmark and Greenland. The second agreement on traditional knowledge was inked between CSIR, India and the Danish Patent and Trademark Office.
The third MoU involves the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and Danfoss Industries Pvt Ltd. The objective here is to establish a centre of excellence towards natural refrigerants for tropical climates. Finally, the fourth agreement is the Joint letter of Intent between the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Govt of India and Govt of Kingdom of Denmark. The projects under these agreements also included aim at building an efficient supply chain, smart water resource management and increasing agriculture productivity in India.
What is of interest is that Copenhagen committed to increase the climate financing. It has promised that Denmark will contribute more than 1 per cent ofthe US $100 billion per annum commitment made under the Paris Agreement. It is in line with Denmark’s policy of extending development aid to the poor and developing countries. One of the big development organisations, Humana People to People, India, is working in rural areas of India in the field of education and employment.
In the past, Denmark supported India by supplying dairy products during the food crisis faced by the latter. Denmark is an important member of the European Union and so, bulk of its aid is rooted through the European Union organisations. Denmark also is a part of small but economically powerful Nordic countries comprising Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Island. These countries work as a group in India to coordinate their political engagement and development cooperation.
The Ambassadors of the Nordic countries mentioned above visit development hotspots in India. In one such visit to poverty-stricken Kalahandi district in Orissa, I was escorting them around. Their focus on development, mainly on eradication of poverty and hunger is remarkable. The Nordic countries also known as Scandinavian countries are largely progressive and pro-development. Let us remember that the Noble peace prize, the biggest civilian prize in the world is given by Sweden and Norway. If Denmark has led on green and agriculture technology, Norway has led on peace building across the world. Their role in Sri Lanka is noteworthy, so is the role played by Denmark in building democracy in Nepal. Sweden has had the longest social democratic domination in politics.
The point of highlighting the USPs of this Scandinavian countries including Denmark is to nudge South Block to develop deeper partnership with them. New Delhi tends to be guided by its security imperatives in its foreign policy. That is why the focus on Russia, China and Pakistan. But the established strategy in international diplomacy is that a country needs to have a strong economy and sound development to be able to play a viable role. India has suffered from this mismatch between its economy, and development on the one hand and its ambitious foreign policy on the other.
New Delhi must take a cue from the Scandinavian countries in formulating its development strategies. So any visit by the leaders of these countries should be taken seriously, which brings me to my despair mentioned earlier on that the visit of the Danish Prime Minister did not receive as much attention as it deserved. Dealing with countries like Denmark requires a radical shift in our foreign policy, from security to development and progress. In that sense, a visit of the Danish Prime Minister should prompt discussion and rethinking in our foreign policy discourse. –INFA