First India-Nordic Summit held in Sweden

Relations between the Nordic nations and India have strengthened over the past years with a steady rise in economic activities, research and development partnerships and people-to-people exchanges

April 17, 2018

The summit was attended by Prime Ministers Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Denmark), Juha Sipilä (Finland), Katrín Jakobsdóttir (Iceland), Erna Solberg (Norway) and Stefan Löfven (Sweden)

The Nordic nations, featuring the world’s highest living standards and leading sustainable innovations, and India, a trove of valuable resources, have a lot to gain from each other

The summit created ground for exchange of the Nordic region’s culture of innovation, clean technology, maritime solutions, life sciences and agriculture, and India’s vast pool of skills

India-Sweden Joint Action Plan related to the areas of trade and investment; sustainable development; renewable energy; skill development; science and technology was signed

India’s re-energised foreign relations initiative has found a new regional partnership—the Nordic countries, comprising Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Relations between the Nordic nations and India have strengthened over the past years with a steady rise in economic activities, research and development partnerships and people-to-people exchanges. In this backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, for the first India-Nordic Summit afforded him an opportunity to sit down with the heads of government of all the five Nordic states to discuss multiple issues of cooperation. The Nordic nations, featuring some of the world’s highest living standards and leading sustainable innovations, and India, a trove of a valuable resources, have a lot to gain from each other.

New agreements to expand ties with Nordic

The summit was attended by Prime Ministers Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Denmark), Juha Sipilä (Finland), Katrín Jakobsdóttir (Iceland), Erna Solberg (Norway) and Stefan Löfven (Sweden). The summit was jointly hosted by Prime Ministers Stefan Löfven and Narendra Modi. The summit reiterated the six countries’ commitment towards cooperation in global security, economic growth, innovation and climate change. The leaders also underlined the importance of free trade as a catalyst for achieving inclusive growth and realising the Sustainable Development Goals. During the summit discussions, common grounds were established between the Nordic region’s culture of innovation, clean technology, maritime solutions, port modernisation, food processing, health, life sciences and agriculture, and India’s vast pool of skills and resources.

Specifically, the summit re-energised the Nordic Sustainable Cities Project aimed at supporting the Smart Cities Program of the Government of India. The meeting witnessed the signing of four agreements between India and Denmark on cooperation in the fields of sustainable and smart urban development, animal husbandry and dairy farming, food safety cooperation as well as agricultural research and education. Meanwhile, India and Iceland signed an agreement for the establishment of the ICCR Chair for Hindi language between Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the University of Iceland. India and Sweden also signed an agreement related to an innovation partnership for a sustainable future. During his stay, PM Modi subsequently met Swedish PM Löfven separately.

The India-Nordic summit re-energised the Nordic Sustainable Cities Project which is aimed at supporting the Smart Cities Program of the Government of India

The highlight of the bilateral meeting was the formulation of the India-Sweden Joint Action Plan related to areas of technological innovation; trade and investment; smart cities and next generation mobility; sustainable and renewable energy; women’s skill development and empowerment; defence; space and science; and, health and life sciences. The plan, for example, under the purview of trade and investment envisages boosting of commercial ties between and empowering business leaders to drive cooperation in smart cities, digitization, skills development and defence sectors. The strengthening of ties comes in the backdrop of expanding diplomatic relation between India and Sweden that dates back to 1949.

Strengthening India-Sweden trade relations

Total India-Sweden merchandise trade during 2016-17 amounted to US$1.9 billion, with room for further growth. The main items of Indian exports to Sweden have been apparel articles, clothing accessories, textile yarn, fabrics and made-ups, metal goods, vehicles and general industrial machinery and equipment. Meanwhile, Indian imports from Sweden comprise of pulp and waste paper, vehicles, paper and paper board, general industrial machinery and equipment, iron and steel, electrical machines, and power generating machinery and equipment, among other items. As of October 2017, there are over 170 Swedish joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries operating in India. Sweden is India’s 20th largest foreign investor with a cumulative investment of US$8.5 billion recorded between January 2003 and January 2017.

The existing Swedish MNCs in India are now expanding not only in engineering and manufacturing but also increasingly in offshore research and development and IT operations. Sectors that received the largest shares of Swedish investments in India have been automobile with US$362.2 million (33 per cent), industrial machinery with US$162 million (15 per cent), miscellaneous mechanical and engineering industries with US$115.7 million (10 per cent), electrical equipment with US$81 million (7 per cent) and metallurgical industries with US$55 million (5 per cent). The top FDI equity inflows have come from Sweden’s leading companies–Volvo, ABB, Atlas Copco, Ericsson, Alfa Laval, Saab Automobile, Autoliv, Sapa (Aluminium solutions), Astra Pharmaceuticals, Electrolux, Quinn Hotels Sweden, Scania, Perstorp, H&M, IKEA, Recipharm and Securitas.

On the flipside, there are more than 70 Indian companies operating in Sweden, of which over 40 are IT firms. Indian pharma and biotech companies such as Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Biocon, Kemwell and Cadila Pharmaceuticals have formed collaborations in Sweden. In 2011, India’s Crompton Greaves had acquired Emotron, a developer of electric motors. The same year, Aditya Birla Group acquired Swedish specialty pulp maker and bio refinery company Domsjo Fabriker. In 2012, India’s Altruist Technologies purchased Swedish telecom company Teligent. In 2015, Volvo Trucks reached an agreement to divest its external IT operations to HCL Technology for US$138 million. Cumulative Indian investment in Sweden is estimated in the range of US$700-800 million. The two nations have decided to augment bilateral platforms and mechanisms to support growth in commercial and cultural exchanges.