Earlier this month, President Pranab Mukherjee became the first Indian president to visit Sweden even as it plans to expand economic ties with India. Sweden also observed an India week in May — India Unlimited — to explore investment opportunities in the country. India’s Ambassador to Sweden Banashri Bose Harrison in an interview with Nayanima Basu sheds some light on its plans. Edited excerpts:
What role does ‘India Unlimited’ play in boosting bilateral trade and investments between both countries because the trading relationship is already robust and more than 170 Swedish firms are already operating here?
The aim of the platform India Unlimited is 'Promoting Brand India in Sweden and Brand Sweden in India. It seeks to strengthen Indo-Swedish connections and partnerships in all areas that benefit both countries, especially economic relations and people-to-people ties. Infrastructure, defence, power, information technology, innovation, travel and tourism are the key business sectors that the platform focuses on.
How bullish is the Swedish industry about some of the flagship programmes of the Narendra Modi government such as Make in India, Digital India and Smart Cities project, among others?
Doing business in India just got easier — new de-licensing and deregulation measures are reducing complexity, and significantly increasing speed and transparency. India’s manufacturing infrastructure and capacity for innovation is poised for phenomenal growth with new smart cities and industrial clusters, being developed in identified industrial corridors having connectivity, new youth-focused programmes and institutions dedicated to developing specialised skills.
What are some of the sectors Sweden can work together with India?
The new government in India urges investors not to look at India merely as a market, but instead see it as an opportunity. We believe this can create even bigger opportunities between Sweden and India. India is the only country in the world that offers the unique combination of democracy, demography, and demand. There's never been a better time to Make in India and Grow with India. Prime Minister has underlined that the Make in India initiative must go hand in hand with ‘Zero Defect Zero Effect’. So the expansion of manufacturing must be of high quality with no environmental impact.
How much is Sweden planning to invest in India in the next couple of years and in which all sectors?
Foreign Direct Investment from Sweden to India is $70 million. India exports goods worth $732 million while Sweden exports goods worth $1,679 million. Swedish companies create jobs in India. Nearly 150,000 jobs are directly created by Swedish companies present in India. The indirect numbers are much higher, including sub-contractors, farmers and service providers. A number of Indian companies have also invested in Sweden, particularly in the IT-sector. In total there are more than 50 Indian companies in Sweden today.
Is Sweden's role within the EU important for India ties?
India has a well-established dialogue with European Union (EU) through the ASEM (Asia Europe Meeting) and Sweden is an active member of the EU. Therefore, stronger and more active India-Sweden relations can be expected to lead to closer interaction in multilateral forums including the EU as well as the United Nations, where again, both Sweden and India play important roles.
How did the recent visit by President Pranab Mukherjee help enhance the relationship?
President of India’s recent visit was the first-ever visit by an Indian President to Sweden. The high profile of the visit and the exceptional warmth with which the President was received at all levels in Sweden has injected a new vigour in the traditionally friendly ties. Besides the impetus given to political ties, the visit also gave a significant boost to educational and economic ties. This was achieved as much through the slew of agreements and MoUs signed between the governments and institutions from the two sides.