ANA: The Danish Government’s Action Plan for India was launched during the Danish Prime Minister’s state visit to India in February 2008. In this context, what are the priority areas for Denmark’s cooperation with India?
HE: India is undergoing rapid and dramatic change, and Denmark has a great economic and political interest in strengthening its partnership with India. Denmark has therefore taken steps to strengthen the bilateral cooperation in six key areas namely political dialogue, trade and investments, research, science and technology, energy, environment and climate, education, cooperation between peoples and culture and attracting Indian high-skilled labour Fortunately, the Indian Government has received the initiative well, and a “Joint Commission” between India and Denmark at Foreign Minister Level was established in 2008 in order to promote and coordinate the increased bilateral activity. The Joint Commission can be seen as an expression of the mutual desire to strengthen the relationship given the political and economic realities of today and to re-define the economic and political ties following the termination of Danish development cooperation with India in 2005.
The intensified cooperation between India and Denmark involves a number of line ministries and other partners on both sides and includes the setting up of professional and sector-specific fora. The joint cooperation is currently moving ahead within areas like new and renewable energy, biotech and information and communication technology, and more areas will be.
ANA: Presently, Denmark is focusing a lot of attention on the issue of climate change as Denmark will host the UN climate change conference, COP15 in Copenhagen in December 2009. There is hope that a new global climate deal will be agreed by all countries of the world, and as host country Denmark is playing a role as facilitator of such a deal. What are your expectations from India in this regard?
HE: The ambition of the Danish government is that the COP15 conference in Copenhagen will result in an ambitious global agreement incorporating all the countries of the world. India is one of the key players in securing that an agreement will be reached in light of India’s population size and growth economy. Understandably, India’s main priority is economic development and poverty alleviation. At the same time, India’s growing economy demands new, sustainable energy sources and a more efficient use of existing ones. India’s continued growth depends on it. Fully realizing this, the Indian Government has already taken a number of important initiatives to further a sustainable development in India, including the National Action Plan for Climate Change. The Danish experience shows that economic growth does not have to lead to a corresponding increase in energy consumption. We have to fight climate change in ways that can sustain and reinforce economic growth. And the key tools are energy technologies and incentives that promote efficiency and the use of renewable energy resources. During the last 25 years, the Danish economy has grown with 70%. But in the same 25 year period, our energy consumption has remained stable.
India is one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world, with its long coastline and reliance on agriculture as the livelihood of a very large proportion of the population. It is therefore clearly also in India’s interest that an effective international regime for combating climate change is being agreed to. Reaching an ambitious agreement will obviously require that we recognize the special needs of developing countries. Industrialized countries should stand ready as partners with financial support and technological transfers. But it will also require that all countries, including developing countries, accept to contribute to mitigating climate change – albeit in different ways and to different time schedules.
ANA: There is considerable potential for increased Danish trade and investment in India. What potential do you see for Danish companies in enhancing trade and investment in India?
HE: I believe that there is a significant growth potential for Indo-Danish trade and investments. Danish export of goods and commodities to India in 2007 only amounted to around 400 million dollars and our import from India to twice that amount.
In terms of the relative size of Danish export markets, India only ranks as a modest number 33. Clearly, these figures can and should be improved. But today, economic collaboration is not only a matter of trade. It is also matter of services and investments, and here the Danish track record is much better. In services, dominated by shipping, Danish export to India is close to one billion US dollars. And as far as investments are concerned, more than 100 Danish companies have established representations in India with more to come.
Denmark is a market leader in significant areas, where India’s growth economy demands the latest technology. I therefore see a substantial potential for increased cooperation. India for instance needs efficient, low-carbon energy supplies, and Denmark has a very positive track record in providing attractive energy solutions. The same goes for the healthcare sector consisting both of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, which is experiencing growing demand in India, and where Denmark can offer products and services of a high quality. Also, the food processing industry is another area, which looks promising. For decades, Denmark has had a leading position in this area, and the Indian market now seems mature for purchasing of Danish know-how.
I also see good prospects for Indian investments in R&D in Denmark. Within the last two years, Denmark has welcomed a number of large international Indian companies like Suzlon, Reliance Trevira, Infosys, and ICT Infotech, which, due to the strong Danish capabilities, have chosen to place some of their activities in Denmark. We are making good progress on cooperation on Indo-Danish cooperation in Biotech, including joint research projects, scholarships and exchange of scientists. As far as ICT is concerned, a high level Danish delegation carried out a fact-finding mission in India at the end of last year and met with various Indian stake holders. As a result, a co-operation agreement is now being negotiated, which hopefully will contribute to pave the way for more bilateral interaction in ICT.
ANA: According to a recent World Bank study India is at risk of becoming a “water-stressed” nation -less than 1,000 cubic meters of water will be available per-capita by 2020. The Danish Minister for the Environment, Mr. Troels Lund Poulsen, visited India on 18-21 February 2009 along with a Danish business delegation. What was the commercial outcome of the minister’s visit in terms of India becoming an important market for Danish clean-tech companies?
HE: I believe the visit by the Danish Minister for the Environment was a success. Negotiations on a broad Indian-Danish Environment Agreement have been concluded, which will hopefully contribute to increase our future cooperation in the environment sector. India is particularly interested in Denmark’s experiences in combining environmental protection and economic growth. The visit especially focused on the water sector, and the participating Danish companies and the Danish Export Council were so encouraged by the potential, that it was decided to seek to choose a demonstration project using Danish technology and know how. The object of a demonstration project would be to showcase Danish capabilities to the growing Indian market and to provide a platform for the dialogue with the Indian Government on the potential for future cooperation.
ANA: And finally Excellency, how do you reconcile developing bilateral relations in the context of a larger partnership with India through the EU. Do you see increased Danish influence on the formulation of EU foreign policy on India for representing specific Danish interests?
HE: Developing bilateral relations is important to ensuring Danish interests in India. However, Denmark also recognizes that the EU is an important vehicle for furthering Danish interests in India, including through instruments such as the broad-based trade and investment agreement, which is being negotiated between the EU and India at the moment. The EU’s comparative advantage is the ability to combine political, economic and commercial instruments to provide a strong platform for handling Denmark’s and other EU partners’ interests vis-à-vis India. Denmark is very conscious of the possibility for benefiting from the larger influence, which the EU can provide, rather than solely relying on the bilateral influence of a rather small country like mine. And Denmark is – as you may know – a very active member of the EU. Together with our growing presence in India, we certainly hope to be able to contribute constructively and to mutual benefit to the future involvement of the EU’s policy towards India. Delhi
- Date March 23, 2009
- Tags Interviews