Script by Prof. Ummu Salma Bava, Professor and Jean Monnet Chair, Centre for European Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
On 16 March 2020, Prime Minister Modi had a virtual summit with Ms. Sanna Marin, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Finland. India has strong relations with the Nordic countries that include Finland and the present meeting was aimed to boost the bilateral relations. Prime Minister Modi emphasised that relations between both countries “were based on shared values- democracy, rule of law, equality, freedom of speech and respect for the human right”. In addition, there is a “strong cooperation in such areas as technology, innovation, clean energy, environment, education”.
Finland has a small population but with a high standard of living and is a leader in technology and innovation. The Finnish industry has a strong footprint in India with over 100 companies like Nokia, Kone, Wartsila, Fortum, Ahlstrom spread across sectors like telecom, elevators, machinery and clean energy. In the backdrop of the pandemic that has heightened digital engagement, both leaders pushed for expanding the partnership to cover (i) Future ICT, focussing on quantum technologies and computing, (ii) future mobile technologies, focussing on 8G research and development (iii) future education, with a focus on the digital transformation of teaching and learning. There was an endorsement of a Digital Partnership in Future ICT, future mobile technologies and digital education. In keeping with this intention, a High-Level Dialogue in education was also announced. In addition, renewing the MOUs between 10 Finnish Universities and 23 IITs was as an indication of the strong push to the education sector and the Make in India platform and expanding the knowledge partnership so crucial for India’s technological growth.
Given Finland’s strong credentials in clean and renewable energy, a Sustainability Partnership that focuses on the green economy was also agreed to by both sides and this has given brought attention to the sector of energy and environment. Prime Minister Modi emphasised that Finland is a global leader in the field of clean energy and also an important partner of India. He invited Prime Minister Marin to join India led International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) indicating how both institutions will benefit from the infusion of expertise from Finland. The Joint statement indicated adopting measures to integrate water and climate policies to increase the implementation of SDG6 on clean water and sanitation and SDG 13 on climate action.
In addition, they agreed to enable the success of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 and the Biodiversity COP 15. While strongly endorsing multilateralism, both sides committed to supporting each other in international fora. Finland has endorsed India’s permanent membership in the reformed UNSC. New Delhi has also assured its support for Finland’s election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2021. Both leaders also took stock of developments in the India-EU relations and the next Summit meeting in May 2021 at Porto in Portugal, also sought to enhance cooperation in the Arctic region and the WTO and both emphasised the need for the “restoration of a full-strength Appellate Body as part of the two-tiered Dispute Settlement System”. They agreed that reform of the UN would strengthen all three pillars and lead to more effective multilateralism.
Prime Minister Modi emphasised the role played by India in building global health resilience by distributing vaccines to fight COVID 19. Finnish Prime Minister Marin applauded New Delhi role in the fight against the pandemic as India has given 58 million doses of the vaccine. Both sides endorsed their support for vaccine solidarity as the need of the hour and committed to strengthening vaccine production and distribution around the world through COVAX. In addition to this, both sides agreed to enhance trade, investment and tourism and looked forward to the resumption of the direct flights between both countries. Both leaders looked forward to personal meetings later in the year at the India-EU Leaders meeting at the Summit and the India-Nordic Summit.