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Address at “Is Norway responding well to the rise of India?”

I will start with the short answer to your big question: Yes, Norway is responding well to the rise of India, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide said in her address at the Norway-India seminar in Arendal.

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Excellency, ladies and gentlemen,

I will start with the short answer to your big question: Yes, Norway is responding well to the rise of India.

The rise of India, its size, economic growth and international influence, means that cooperation between our countries is a clear priority for the Norwegian Government.

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There are many ties between our two countries.

We share a fundamental belief in a rules-based world order, and we work together in the UN and other international organisations.

We cooperate on development issues, business promotion, the environment, and science and technology.

Norwegian businesses are steadily increasing their activities in India.

In many ways, the history of our consulate in Mumbai tells the story of Norway’s role in India.

Established in 1857, it closed again in 1973.

For 116 years, it served Norwegian ships and sailors and witnessed both the beginning and the end of British colonial rule.

When the consulate closed in 1973, India’s GDP – hampered by the Licence Raj – was 83 billion US dollars.

Forty-two years later, when Norway reopened the consulate general in 2015, India’s GDP had grown to 2.1 trillion US dollars.

Today, India is the world’s sixth largest economy in real terms.

It is the G20 economy with the highest growth rate, and will be the world’s third biggest economy in a few years if the forecasts prove right.

For Norway, missing out on the rise of India is not an option.

The fact that we have reopened our consulate in Mumbai and invested in a brand new embassy in New Delhi reflects the importance of our bilateral relations.

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Given India’s solid growth and the relative complementarity of our economies, there is great potential for increased trade and economic cooperation.

Indian workers are the biggest group of labour immigrants in Norway from outside the Schengen Area.

The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund is now one of the largest foreign investors in India, with investments worth 11.7 billion US dollars at the end of 2017.

Norwegian businesses are also enjoying strong growth in many parts of India. Likewise, several Indian tech companies have substantial operations in Norway.

However, there is still considerable untapped potential in terms of our bilateral trade.

Let us hope that last year’s double-digit growth in trade signals a new era after a decade of slow trade between our two countries.

We are confident that a successful conclusion of the protracted negotiations on an EFTA-India free-trade agreement would bring our bilateral trade up to a new level.

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India’s global position makes it a key partner in multilateral cooperation and efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

A stable global framework for trade and investment is in the interests of both our countries.

We both agree on the need to protect and strengthen the multilateral trading system.

Over the last two years, Norway and India have both hosted ministerial meetings to build consensus in the WTO – in Oslo in 2016, and in New Delhi last February.

This reflects the importance we both attach to multilateral solutions in these challenging times for international cooperation.

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Health is an area where we cooperate closely, and have done so for a number of years.

We are particularly proud of our cooperation on maternal and neo-natal health under the Norway–India Partnership Initiative (NIPI).

Norway spent 580 million kroner on pilots under this scheme over a ten-year period, and India has scaled up 90 % of them.

For each krone Norway spent, India has spent 20.

NIPI projects are now being implemented all over India.

India is also a crucial partner in the area of climate and environment.

We applaud India’s ambitions, which include an early ratification of the Paris Agreement, a ban on single-use plastic, and impressive targets for renewable energy development.

Today, most of our development funds to India is channelled to research on climate change and the environment.

These are true partnerships, and costs are shared equally with our Indian counterparts.

Following the meeting of our prime ministers earlier this year, we have started discussions on further cooperation on the oceans and the blue economy.

Sustainable ocean management is a new area of shared interest and opportunity.

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We also hope to have a seat on the UN Security Council, together with India, in 2021-22.

Norway and India have a common interest in defending and developing the international order – an order built on the premise that might is not right.

Our cooperation with India is growing, and both sides are reaching out to grasp the many opportunities this entails.

This is a win-win situation.

So, have we responded well?

As I said in my introduction, I think we have. Although – in hindsight – there maybe opportunities we have missed.

But there are still many other opportunities – both within our existing cooperation and in new areas that are emerging as our economies grow.

It is against this backdrop, the Norwegian Government is going to revise its India strategy this autumn.

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Meanwhile, I hope you all find the discussions this afternoon both inspiring and useful.

I now have to need to leave for another commitment, but I am pleased that our Consul General in Mumbai will take part in the panel.

Thank you.

 

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