Saturday, December 4, 2021

Swedish Royal Couple’s Visit To India

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The Swedish Royal Couple King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia were on a five-day visit to India. Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Business Minister Ibrahim Baylan also accompanied the Swedish Royals on the State visit. Representatives of around 50 Swedish companies and start-ups also accompanied the high-level team. This was the third visit of the Swedish King to India, after visits in 1993 and 2005. It must also be noted that this was the fourth high-level political exchange between the two countries after former President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Sweden in 2015. The high-level talks which have been taking place over the years have helped to cement India-Sweden ties taking it to an all new level.

King Gustaf met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They inaugurated the ‘India-Sweden High-Level Policy Dialogue on Innovation Policy’. The participants in the dialogue deliberated on ideas of future cooperation to find affordable, scalable technologies to tackle challenges of sustainable growth and minimizing the impact of climate change. The Swedish King also met President Ram Nath Kovind, after which the two sides signed three MoUs. A Protocol of Cooperation was signed between the Swedish Energy Agency and Department of Science and Technology of India. Another MoU was signed on Cooperation of Polar Science between the Ministry of Education and Research of Sweden and the Ministry of Earth Sciences of India. The third MoU signed was to ensure safety of the maritime environment. The Department of Science & Technology (DST), India and Swedish Research Council will fund 20 bilateral projects in the area of Computer Science and Material Science under the Indo-Swedish Joint Network Grant Awards.

The Swedish Research Council will fund 14 million SEK for 2 years for this programme. Both the countries announced the establishment of ‘Joint Centre of Excellence in Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ between KTH Royal Institute of Technology and IIT Madras with a view to build cross-border teams. External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar also called on the Royal couple and held discussions on ways to boost bilateral ties. The India-Swedish Collaborative Industrial Research Development Programme in the area of smart grids and the `Joint Call’ in the area of digital health will be announced for joint proposals in 2020.The Swedish King met Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India Prof. K. Vijay Raghavan during the Indo-Swedish dialogue on ‘Tackling emissions and air pollution through the circular economy approach’. The King and Queen also visited Uttarakhand and Mumbai before they left for Stockholm.

On the economic front, it should be remembered that India is Sweden’s 19th largest export market and third largest trade partner after China and Japan in Asia. The growth of bilateral trade has increased from US$ 2 billion in 2009-10 to US$ 2.4 billion in 2014-15. However, it has not been able to reach the targeted mark of $5 billion which was set to be achieved by 2018. A positive development in this context has been the increase in Swedish investments. Swedish companies came to India even before it gained independence. Ericsson, Swedish Match (WIMCO) and SKF have been in India from the 1920s. Companies like Atlas Copco, Sandvik, Alfa Laval, Volvo, Astra Zeneca, etc. have also made their presence felt in India. Around 70 Indian companies including IT companies are currently present in Sweden.

Both India and Sweden share the same set of democratic values and have a continued commitment to move forward on areas of mutual interests. The immense possibilities of a strong relationship between Sweden and India, based on mutual interest and benefits cannot be understated. In the last few years, both economic and political interaction between India and Sweden has increased significantly. The current need is to increase bilateral trade and identify newer areas of cooperation like space technology, capacity building, funding and equipment, cyber security and digital cooperation, agriculture and biofuels in the context of climate change and others. High-level visits like the one by the Swedish Royal couple to India signals the opportunity to give a fillip to the existing bilateral relations within the frameworks of the joint action plan, the innovation partnership and existing memorandums of understanding.

Script: Dr. Sanghamitra Sarma, Strategic Analyst On European Affairs

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