One of the platforms for realising constant growth in economic and commercial relations between India and Norway has been the Joint Commission Meetings. The Sixth Session of the India-Norway Joint Commission was recently held virtually. The Norwegian delegation was led by Ms. Ine Eriksen Søreide, Foreign Minister of Norway and the Indian delegation was led by External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar. While recognizing the advancement in bilateral relations, the two sides noted down areas of potential cooperation in non-conventional areas, especially in the pandemic-affected world which provides opportunities to build more sustainable economies. The countries while acknowledging the significance of ensuring health security welcomed the establishment of the global facility COVAX and efforts to secure fair global access to vaccines. They also pledged their commitment to the bilateral cooperation on maternal and child health.
In accordance with the Dialogue on Trade and Investment (DTI) which was convened in New Delhi on 15-16 January, 2020, both countries expressed satisfaction on the groundwork which will lead to cooperation in the fields of ‘blue economy’, shipping & maritime, information and communication technology, renewable energy, fisheries and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in future. Other areas identified in the Ocean Dialogue and the Task Force on Blue Economy for Sustainable Development to synergize potentials of India and Norway are fisheries, aquaculture, green technologies for maritime use, and construction of vessels, ship-recycling and green ports. The integrated action plan undertaken in areas of marine pollution, integrated ocean management and research, and marine spatial planning were stressed upon.
Within the ambit of bilateral relations, India and Norway have established a number of Joint Working Groups (JWGs) on multiple areas like science and technology, environment, higher education, hydrocarbons, culture, local governance, maritime matters and fisheries under the auspices of the India-Norway Joint Commission. The ministers underlined the significance of these groups towards promoting the Sustainable Development Goals, combating climate change and move ahead towards a greener economy. From this perspective, the bilateral relations have been upgraded so as to include contemporary concerns affecting the global community.
On multilateralism, the role and significance of the United Nations in maintaining global peace and security was highlighted. A greater role for both the countries within the UN is envisaged as both countries are incoming elected members of the United Nations Security Council and as such both sides agreed to engage in regular consultations at senior officials level on Council issues during the membership period 2021-22. Apart from the UN, the two Foreign Ministers exchanged views on regional, multilateral and global issues of interest. In a time where the debate on the weakening of multilateral governance systems is on the rise, India-Norway cooperation provides a direction to work together on reforms related to the UN and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The establishment of India-Norway relations dates back to 1947. Both countries share common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of the law. In recent years, the relation between the two countries have become dynamic and progressive. The signing of 4 MoU’s in higher education and research earlier this year in areas like bio-photonics, health and diagnostic tools, nanotechnology, water management, renewable energy hydropower, project-based learning and student and researchers’ mobility have expanded the partnership mutually benefitting both countries.
While newer and broader areas of engagement have been emphasised upon, the untapped potential in the economic and commercial field needs to be realised. Since both countries support a rules-based multilateral trading system, a stable framework of trade and investment, business friendly policies combined with a strategy involving private sector engagement, research and technical cooperation is the need of the hour to take the economic partnership to the next level. An early conclusion of the India and European Free Trade Association (FTA) free trade negotiations will effectively enhance trade and business opportunities leading to reduction of tariffs and technology exchange among a host of other benefits. The 2020 Joint Commission Meeting was successfully concluded with both countries deciding to hold the next round of Joint Commission Meeting in Oslo at a mutually convenient date.
Script: Dr. Sanghamitra Sarma, Strategic Analyst on European Affairs