Monday, Jul 04, 2022

India And The Nordic Countries Discuss Ukraine, Express Concern Over Humanitarian Crisis

Innovation, green technology and sustainable development dominated the discussions. The joint statement issued at the end of the summit implied as the war in Ukraine continues, India is evolving its response.

PM Narendra Modi flanked by the five leaders of the Nordic nations during India-Nordic Summit
PM Narendra Modi flanked by the five leaders of the Nordic nations during India-Nordic Summit Twitter

The second summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the five leaders of the Nordic nations ended in Copenhagen Wednesday with a strong commitment to cooperation in the fields of innovative technology, sustainable growth and green energy. The war in Ukraine and its regional and global effect was a part of the conversation. Russian military action has rattled Europe and led to Sweden and Finland shedding their neutrality and moving toward NATO membership.

Prime Minister Modi and his counterparts  Norway’s Jonas Gahr Støre, Sweden’s Magdalena Andersson, Iceland’s  Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Finland’s  Sanna Marin, and Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen discussed Ukraine and India got a first-hand account of the strong feelings the invasion has invoked in Europe.   

"The Nordic Prime Ministers reiterated their strong condemnation of the unlawful and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine by Russian Forces,’’ the joint statement released at the end of the summit. Note that this is being attributed to the "Nordic Prime Ministers’’, underlying the fact that New Delhi did not wish to use strong language. But on the humanitarian crisis and civilian deaths and the fact that Russian action is against the UN charter, India is on board. The statement reflected the gradual evolution of the Indian position as the war drags on. New Delhi has from the beginning called for an end to the fighting and getting back to diplomacy and talks to end the war.

"The Prime Ministers expressed their serious concern about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. They unequivocally condemned civilian deaths in Ukraine. They reiterated the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities. They emphasized that the contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and the territorial integrity of states. They discussed the destabilizing effect of the conflict in Ukraine and its broader regional and global implications. Both sides agreed to remain closely engaged on the issue."

The Nordic summit has become an important part of India’s diplomatic calendar since 2018, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated a joint meeting with the leaders of Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland in Stockholm. These five countries tucked away in one corner of Europe, are among the world’s wealthiest with a high standard of living, high rate of taxation as well low unemployment. All five countries are among the 20 countries in the world with the highest GDP per capita.

Yet for the longest time India and the Nordic world did not pay much attention to each other as New Delhi’s focus in Europe were Germany and France, and a little bit of Italy. When the EU was born, India did focus on EU, but not till 2018 was attention focused on the Nordic states. And the two sides can complement each other.

"Their population is small (27 million). Total GDP is large (US$1.6 trillion). They are extremely prosperous but their market is miniscule. Strong India-Nordic engagement is a win-win proposition as these countries are looking for big and growing markets as well as reliable and trustworthy partners. India fits the bill eminently," says Ashok Sajjanhar, a former ambassador to Sweden and Latvia, who knows the region well.

"All the five Nordic countries figure in the top ten of the Human Development Index of the World Bank. India and these countries share the same values of democracy, rule of law, pluralism and open societies. All these countries have enormous strengths in innovation, clean technology, green manufacturing, renewable energy and sustainability. These would be of great benefit to India", ambassador Sajjanhar explains.

 The coming months and years will show how much all the promises made will transform on the ground. New Delhi is hoping that the Nordic companies  set up  manufacturing units in India and help to create jobs for millions of youths, desperately seeking employment.