India-Norway ties are looking at the future
Norway and India's bilateral relationship has grown during, despite and after the pandemic through cooperation in areas such as energy and the environment
When I arrived in India, I felt as bewildered as Aamir Khan in PK. India is a steep learning curve every day, there are answers, and multiple answers to questions. And all are (mostly) correct. You navigate not just the lanes and gullies physically, but through people’s thoughts and words.
Walking the streets of India, you see a country navigating its own growth story. You see progress being made through India’s ambitious climate targets, the green hydrogen mission and initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance. For the world to succeed in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, India needs to succeed.
In that process, I ask myself as the ambassador of a country with 5.5 million people, Norway, how can we contribute to a country with 250 times more population?
Norway is a small country up in the Far North with a harsh, cold climate most of the year, very little agricultural land, and a relatively homogeneous population.
However, while India may have 10 times more landmass than Norway, the oceans that we control are about the same size as India’s. Norway is a world leader in ocean areas such as sustainable fisheries, offshore petroleum production, aquaculture and shipping, making us meet India on an equal footing when it comes to aiming for a sustainable future.
Norway is basically an energy nation; with petroleum and renewables such as hydroelectric power, solar, hydrogen and offshore wind power. Our fragile nature has made us a leader in the circular economy. With these areas of expertise to offer, Norway’s India Strategy 2030 outlines our work with India, which mainly includes democracy and a rules-based world order, energy, environment and the ocean.
We have established the India Norway Blue Economy Task Force and the India Norway Energy Task Force. Our trade figures have doubled. We have cooperated on pilot projects on marine spatial planning in Lakshadweep and Pondicherry. Norway and India are working towards combating single use plastic together.
The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund is likely one of India’s largest single foreign investors (around $17.6 billion). Our new Climate Investment Fund has invested ₹ 700 crore (974 million NOK) in renewables in India. Our most valued and renowned businesses are operating in India and have made substantial investments. There are now over 120 Norwegian companies operating in India.
The Norway India Partnership Initiative on maternal and newborn health has successfully touched millions of lives. Since 2003, Norway has allocated ₹900 crore (1.2 billion NOK) to 204 research cooperation projects between Norway and India. India is contributing with its own funding. We have an increased digital footprint, and stronger literature cooperation, including Norwegian and smaller Indian languages. We have visited and strengthened our relationship with 21 states and Union Territories of India in the last four years.
Bilateral relationships in all areas have grown during, despite and after the pandemic. It has been my honour to attend an India-Nordic Summit and host five ministerial visits from Norway, in addition to a visit from two deputy ministers and one parliamentary committee during my tenure in India.
In short, we have been able to combine and develop the best of India and Norway. While there has been tremendous progress on the professional side, India has also left a lasting impression personally.
The pride Indians take in their culture and heritage is something to learn from. India is the diverse land of Amar Akbar Anthony; it is the cultural amalgamation of Jodhaa Akbar. It is also the aspiration of Padman and Toilet. But most strikingly, it is the space that Mohan Bhargav in Swades discovers and decides to return to. I will too, even if as a tourist.
Hans Jacob Frydenlund is outgoing ambassador of Norway to India. The views expressed are personal