Speech/statement | Date: 14/12/2018
By Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide (Litteraturhuset, Oslo 14 December 2018)
Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide's speech at the launching of the new India strategy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Friends and colleagues,
India and Norway share a history of firsts.
From establishing one of the first Danish-Norwegian trading stations abroad, in southern India in the early 17th century, to the opening one of Norway’s first consulates in Calcutta in 1845.
From Norway being one of the first countries to recognize India’s independence in 1947 to starting Norway’s first development project in Kerala in 1952 – a project that aimed to improve Indian fisheries.
However, what I am here to do today is not a first. It is actually a second.
Ten years ago, in 2008, the Norwegian government launched its first strategy for India.
Today I am happy to present to you the new and updated India strategy. Version 2.0, if you like.
Ten years is not an extremely long time, but in those years, the Indian GDP has doubled.
The Indian population has grown by 150 million people. This equals, give or take, 30 times the Norwegian population.
The world outside of Indo-Norwegian cooperation has also changed substantially during the last ten years, presenting opportunities, but also challenges that we were not aware of back then.
When making a new India strategy, we had the opportunity to pause and take stock of our priorities.
How does a small country in the north cooperate with the world’s largest democracy in the best possible way?
Our previous strategy has served us well over the last decade, and some components remain the same.
However, as Norway, India AND the world have changed during the last ten years – some changes had to be made.
In 2015 the world agreed on Agenda 2030, the SDGs. They are the blueprint for a better and more sustainable future for all.
They are of course also the guiding principles for the new India strategy. All cooperation between Norway and India should also support the global work to reach the SDGs.
I want to dwell on a few points from the strategy:
First of all, as the world’s largest democracy, India plays an important role both regionally and globally.
India’s global position makes it a key partner in multilateral cooperation and in efforts to reach the SDGs.
Norway and India share a fundamental belief in a rules-based world order, and we work together in the UN and other international organisations.
To cooperate even closer is an explicit goal in the strategy.
A stable global framework for trade and investment is vital for both our countries.
We 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.
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.
Both India and Norway are maritime nations. Cooperation on oceans and SDG14 on life below water is a clear new priority.
To strike the important balance between production and protection, strategic cooperation between maritime nations like Norway and India is essential.
Clean and healthy oceans, are productive oceans. Finding sustainable solutions is a joint responsibility. This includes working together to combat marine plastic and litter.
Prime Minister Solberg took the initiative to establish, and now leads the International High Level Panel on Sustainable Ocean Economy. The oceans are an important part of Norwegian foreign policy.
Cooperation with India on oceans is a natural part of our bilateral relationship.
The Prime Ministers visit to India in January is an excellent occasion to kick start this new chapter.
Building on the previous strategy, we will continue to collaborate closely with India on health issues.
We are proud of our cooperation on maternal and neo-natal health under the Norway–India Partnership Initiative (NIPI).
Norway spent 580 million kroner (over 70 million USD) on pilots under this scheme over a ten-year period, and India has scaled up 90 % of them.
India is also a crucial partner in the area of climate and environment.
We applaud India’s ambitions and actions, 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 between us.
In conclusion, India is an important partner for Norway.
India is our largest source of foreign workers hailing from outside of the Schengen area.
According to the IMF, India will become the world’s fifth biggest economy this year, surpassing France and Britain.
With this growth, India has become a crucial partner in trade, research, technological development and sustainability.
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 are two very visible signs of what the bilateral relationship with India means to Norway.
The strategy I am launching today is a game-plan to achieve an even stronger cooperation.
The official visit from Prime Minister Solberg to India in just a few weeks time will be an excellent occasion to kick start this new chapter in our cooperation.
Her programme will focus on the main aspects from the strategy: Business, trade and investments, cooperation on oceans, and the promotion of sustainable development.
At Prime Modi’s invitation, she will also be a keynote speaker at the Raisina dialogue – the leading conference on security and foreign policy in South Asia.
My colleague Nikolai Astrup, Minister of Development, just came back from a visit to India yesterday. Even though the strategy is only just launched, we are off to an active start.
Our cooperation with India is growing, and both sides are reaching out to grasp the many opportunities this entails.
Both Norway and India stand to gain from our mutually beneficial cooperation.
Our new strategy seeks to develop this cooperation, bilaterally and multilaterally.
I am sure that in the future, our shared history will continue to be a history of cooperation, prosperity and sustainability, and a history of many more firsts.