Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen held a virtual Summit to take stock of the bilateral relations. In the face of the changing international dynamics due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact on economy; both leaders emphasised the need to diversify the global supply chains beyond dependence on one country. Prime Minister Modi said that India was working with Japan and Australia for such a diversification and this statement has relevance in the backdrop of the current standoff at the India-China border.
India and Denmark have long standing relations; in 2008 and 2009 the then Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited India. However, due to the extradition of Kim Davy, (a Danish national accused in the Purulia arms drops case), the relations hit a road block between 2010 and 2016. Official contacts between both sides were restored in end of 2016. Apart from having ministerial meetings, Prime Minister Modi had met Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen in the first Nordic Summit in 2018 in Stockholm, indicating that the past issue would no longer define the future of the New Delhi-Copenhagen engagement. Denmark was the partner country in the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2019 in Gandhinagar and Prime Minister Rasmussen interacted with the Indian Prime Minister.
In the last three years, the Indo-Danish relations have seen a significant scaling up. The latest virtual Summit saw elevation of the bilateral equation to a ‘Green Strategic Partnership’ with focus on trade, commerce and energy. As the Ministry of External Affairs highlighted, it is a new age partnership, envisaged to be mutually beneficial and aimed at a sustainable and green economic growth, together addressing global challenges and focusing on implementing the Paris Agreement.
Both sides also agreed to the 2nd Nordic countries Summit that brings India into deeper conversation with a smaller group of five European countries who are established leaders in technology, climate change, innovation and digital transformation. That the Nordics look at another platform of engagement with India also affirms New Delhi growing economic and political value.The Green Strategic Partnership is aimed at enhancing cooperating and reaping the benefits by a focussed cooperation. In this framework, energy and climate change tops the list and seeks to expand the renewable energy supplies while reducing the climate impact. The International Solar Alliance got another push with Denmark agreeing to join it. This is an emphatic statement for India’s growing leadership role in renewable energy efforts. The two sides agreed to expand cooperation on water and circular economy which seeks to address the diverse water consumption and waste issues through the joint Technology Alliance. Another area of focus is sustainable urban development and smart cities that is high on New Delhi’s priorities as urbanisation is growing in the country.
As both sides gave a push to business, trade and shipping, it is important to note that Copenhagen-Malmo port is the largest in the Nordic region and also serves the Baltic region. Thus, Denmark offers the opportunity for Indian trade and commerce to benefit by exports through this port into northern Europe. It also highlights India’s growing efforts at diversifying its commercial maritime access points and building other supply lines. More than 140 Danish companies are present in India and bring with them scientific knowhow and business potential. It could synergise the focus on science, technology and digitisation. New Delhi has proposed green energy parks and skill institutes to be set up in the country where Danish firms are present.
The virtual Summit underlined the heightened need for collaboration on health in the backdrop of the impact of Covid-19. India also sought to enhance cooperation in this sector given its Pharma advantage. In addition, both sides endorsed their commitment to a rules based multilateral system, including bringing about comprehensive reforms of the WTO. In the words of the Danish Prime Minister Frederiksen, the Summit outcome was not only a milestone, but a forward looking agreement aimed at strengthening the bilateral relationship.
Script: Prof. Ummu Salma Bava Professor and Jean Monnet Chair Centre for European Studies
Jawaharlal Nehru University