President: Friends, I have completed successful State visits to two Nordic countries- the Kingdom of Norway and the Republic of Finland.
As you are aware, I am accompanied on this visit by Shri P. Radhakrishnan, MOS Industries and Public Enterprises and a delegation of Members of Parliament comprising Shri Rajiv Shukla, Shri Anant Kumar Dattatreya Hegde, Dr. Kirit P. Solanki, and Shri Babul Supriya Baral belonging to different parts of our country.
The abiding theme of my visit to both countries was expanding cooperation in education, research, innovation, trade and investment.
As you are already aware, during this visit we concluded six governmental agreements in Norway for cooperation in the fields of earth sciences, culture, scientific research, medicine and defence, as well as consular matters. Similarly, in Finland, we concluded four governmental agreements in the fields of collaboration and research in renewable energy, bio-technology, civil nuclear research and meteorological issues. The academic delegation accompanying me also established institutional tie-ups with Norwegian and Finnish Universities. I am happy that eight MoUs between educational institutions were signed during the visit in Norway and seventeen in Finland with a view to promoting faculty, student and research exchanges. I also interacted via a video-link with our scientists currently undertaking projects at India’s Research Station in the Arctic,‘Himadri’ as well as with our researchers at the Svalbard University Centre.
This was the first Head of State visit ever from India to Norway. King Harald V and Prime Minister Erna Solberg both expressed deep appreciation for this visit and termed it historic. My delegation and I were overwhelmed by the warmth of the reception and hospitality extended to us. We held extensive discussions on bilateral as well as regional and multilateral issues of mutual concern. I met the President of the Storting – the Norwegian Parliament, their Minister of Trade and Industry, the Minister of Education and Research as well as the Mayor of Oslo. We found, across the board, a deep-seated desire for close cooperation between India and Norway. We are satisfied by the Norwegian government’s expressed desire to take our bilateral relationship to still higher levels of engagement and deepen and diversify collaboration. I was delighted with the happy coincidence of my visit closely following the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to an Indian, Shri Kailash Satyarthi.
In my discussions with Prime Minister Erna Solberg, we agreed that scope for further collaboration existed in the fields of research and development, education, science and technology, innovation, clean technologies and renewable energy as well as in polar research. Prime Minister Solberg of Norway congratulated India for our achievements and progress made in reduction of poverty, maternal health and child mortality under the MDGs. She congratulated us on achieving polio-free status. We agreed that focus should not be lost on the Sustainable Development Goals.
In Finland, we were received warmly by the President and the Government of Finland. We met the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and the Mayors of Helsinki and Rovaniemi as well as the Speaker and Members of the Finnish Parliament. I was privileged to receive the Medal of Honour of the City of Helsinki on behalf of the people of India as a symbol of friendship between India and Finland.
I had extensive discussions on bilateral, multilateral and global issues with the Finnish leadership. We agreed that there were a number of commonalities in our worldview. We exchanged views on issues like the situation in Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and the BRICs Bank. We also discussed the need to cooperate against terrorism, as terrorism knows no borders.
This visit provided an opportunity to discuss our cooperation in the Arctic and in Polar and glacial research in both Norway and Finland, which are members of the Arctic Council. In both the countries, we noted our extensive and wide-ranging cooperation across several sectors, including Science and Technology, Renewable Energy, Maritime issues, Hydrocarbons, Education and Research as well as Environment. India’s leadership and expertise in the IT sector was acknowledged.
In Norway and Finland, I took the opportunity to brief the leadership on the economic situation in India as well as about recent policy initiatives of the new government such as the“Make in India” campaign. I urged that India be seen as an attractive investment destination by both these countries, including by the Norwegian sovereign Global Pension Fund. Both Norway and Finland recognized that there was great potential to enhance our economic and commercial engagements. They both importantly, conveyed that they are looking beyond Europe in this regard. Norway in 2009 and Finland in 2013 have, in fact, brought out Action Plans to strategize their respective relationships with India. In Finland, my suggestion that we should try and double the current level of our bilateral trade from Euro 1 billion to Euro 2 billion over the next three years was agreed to immediately. The Finnish leadership mentioned that their companies are keenly pursuing opportunities to invest in India. The Norwegian side expressed their keenness for the conclusion of negotiations of EFTA and informed that their Government has decided to open a Consulate General in Mumbai.
India announced that Norway is on the list of countries to which Tourist Visa on Arrival facility will soon be extended. This was received with much satisfaction by the Norwegians. The Social Security Agreement is also now ready for implementation which will help our nationals in matters related to immigration and work.
I briefed the Norwegian and the Finnish side about India’s efforts for full membership of the four export control regimes and stressed our impeccable record on non-proliferation. We sought their support in this regard.
We also sought their continued support in our endeavour for reforms in the UN Security Council to reflect the realities of the contemporary world and for India’s candidature’s for a permanent seat in the expanded UN Security Council. Support for India was reiterated by both countries.
I met the sizeable Indian community and addressed the business community in both countries. Several commercial agreements were concluded on the sidelines of my visit between business representatives of the two sides.
I have extended invitations to the King and the Prime Minister of Norway as well as the President and the Prime Minister of Finland to visit India to maintain regularity of high level visits and provide continued momentum to the relationship.
I am satisfied that during this visit and in the course of my interactions with the Norwegian and Finnish leadership, we made progress in a number of areas. Norway and Finland are both highly developed countries, having resources, technological advancements, innovation capabilities and expertise in sectors from which India has much to gain. They have expertise in specialized areas like clean technologies, renewable energy, bio-technology, waste management as also education, research, skill development and innovation. India can cooperate successfully with them keeping in mind the objective of sustainable development for future generations.
I am confident the coming years will see our bilateral relations scale significant new heights.
Question:Wonderful sir, this is Jagdish Chandra, ETV & Network 18. Hon’ble sir, I understand you have been very successfully able to sell the new investor friendly India to these two countries. So, how you feel about it and are you satisfied with the outcome of this visit?
President:As I mentioned, I am satisfied because I found that they recognized India has immense potentiality and this is going to be an important investment destination. Quite a few of them enquired about the campaigns- ‘Make in India’ and ‘Made in India’. I clearly explained to them that that does not mean that we shall be restrictive. There is no question of diluting our committment to the international community about the trade liberizations, but at the same time we would like to see that more investments take place in India so that we can skill our workforces because India is going to be the supplier of workforces to the ageing world; as right now 65% of our population is below 35 years of age and in the coming years the number will be much more. Therefore, compared to any other country our people are young and if we can inject skill in them & properly train them then they would be asset not only to India but to the whole world. This point is well recognized.
Question:Sir, Sachchidananda Murthi from Malayala Manorama. During your interactions with leaders of both the governments and also the industrial delegation, business delegation, what kind of specific initiatives they wanted regarding improvement of investment climate in India? Some suggestions were made in the open speeches but in your one-to-one conversation and delegation level conversations, what kind of specific initiatives they sought?
President:There was no specific recommendation that you are to do this or you are to do that; and the type of information which appeared in the Indian media, for instance that somebody is going to ask me about Nokia case or other things, none of them were mentioned. Therefore, it is not correct to say that there have been any concerns on any particular issue. Of course, in my discussions with Prime Minister of Finland, the question of WTO came and I told them very clearly that trade facilitation and food security are closely interlinked and after the Bali Ministerial Declaration, it was clearly pointed out that these two items will have to be taken, entire proposals have to be taken as a package, not picking and choosing. I made it quite clear that from our experiences in past, we have seen that when the developed world get their pound of flesh they forget the others concerned. Therefore, the Bali Ministerial Declarations are to be accepted as an integrated package not by picking up and choosing certain specific things.
Question:Sir, my question is related to the Arctic Council. India is a permanent observer, when you were discussing with the two main Scandinevian countries, what has India got in committment that in future India would be playing a greater role in the Arctic Council?
President:We are already playing an important role because I made it quite clear in my speech even today in the Business meeting that our research is not meant for merely India’s interest. Our global and glacial research by our scientists in Himadri research station in North Pole is meant for the whole world and we would like to complement the efforts made by other states also. Therefore, we are fully involved in Arctic Council and also in the polar research, glacial research, climate research- as all these are interlinked.
Question:Sir, main Aseem Mishra, DD News se hoon. Sir, main aapse jaanana chahta hoon ki WTO mein jo trade facilitation agreement wala issue hai, jiska blame developed world India par lagaa rahaa hai, ki India ki wajah se ye agreement sign nahi ho paa raha hai. Sir, hum aapse ye jaanana chah rahe hain ki aapki iss visit ke baad kya hum ummeed karein ki Norway aur Finland, India ke iss concern ko support karenge?
President:The question is not that whether India is isolated or somebody is blaming India. The entire African countries, they emphasized and they wrote letters to the Director General of WTO that please treat the Bali Ministerial Declaration as an integrated package. We are definitely concerned about food security and as it was made quite clear in Bali Ministerial Conference, in continuation of Doha Developmental round that if we want to maintain the developmental aspects which were agreed by all in Doha Round of Discussions. Food security is an important issue there, nobody can feed India which has 125+ crore people. The level of agricultural development which has taken place, the foodgrain production of 268 million tonnes is possible and that is the core of our food security. We shall have to produce enough and we shall have to give enough to our hungary population at affordable cost; and this can never be treated as market distortion pricing and subsidy.
Question:Mr. President, in your Independence Day speech and also in the discussions that you’ve had, there have been references to emergence of forces like IS and the continued threat of terrorism. I just wanted to ask you, in the discussions and the challenges that you talked with both the Finnish and Norwegian leaderships, do feel that the existing international institutions especially UN and the Security Council are enough to deal with the challenges that the world currently faces?
President:No, we did not discuss about the effectiveness of institutions. What we discussed and there is an agreement, that terrorism is a menace and it has no respect for borders or religions or even any ideology. Therefore, this menace is to be confronted by the collective action of the international community and there was no divergence of views on this. But, surely we did not discuss about the effecitveness of existing institutions or others because that is not, to my mind, very relevant.
Question:Mr. President, I also wanted to get a flavour from you on your discussions about Ukraine with both the Norwegian and Finnish leaderships. On Ukrain, what they (..inaudible..)?
President: On Ukraine, we decided, in fact I made it quite clear our position that we do not like the interference of a third country in the internal matters of any country and if there is an area of dispute, the only way of resolving the dispute is through dialogue not by use of force or by threat of use of force. That is not acceptable. All outstanding issues are to be resolved through dialogue.
Question:You said that you discussed with both the countries on UN reforms. So, two small questions on UN reforms. The President of Finland told us that while they fully supported India’s bid for permanent membership, he said they want the veto powers to be abolished because they have been grossly misused. Second is, did you discuss reform of IMF and World Bank structures also?
President: I mentioned all Bretenwoods Institutions, international architecture, financial architecture and international dispute settlement mechanism including UN reforms (including Security Council).
Question:Rashtrapati ji, aapne aaj Bharat ke pehle rashtrapati ban gaye hain jinhone Arctic Circle ko cross kiya hai. Sir hum aapse ye jaanana chahte hain ki iska practically importance kya hai?
President: Arctic Council has undertaken a very important research and innovation job; and our involvement with them in research and innovation will be the future guidance of working out the policies which will be beneficial not only to the people of India but to the people of whole world because that is going to be the order of the coming years and coming age.
Question: Sir, could you tell us about your meeting with Santa Clause, the first time you have met him?
President: I met Santa with a little bit of humour and the most interesting part is, I think, that every year he receives more than three and a half lac of letters and I saw some of the letters written by Indians. It was quite interesting.