MEDIA STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ABOUT THE STATE VISIT TO NORWAY AND FINLAND EN ROUTE FROM ROVANIEMI TO NEW DELHI
Following is the full text of the statement to media by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee on the State Visit to Norway and Finland (from October 12 to 17, 2014). The statement was made on board the aircraft during the President’s return to New Delhi from Rovaniemi, Finland:
“Friends, I have completed successful State visits to two Nordic countries- the Kingdom of Norway and the Republic of Finland.
As you are aware, I am accompanied on this visit by Shri P. Radhakrishnan, MOS Industries and Public Enterprises and a delegation of Members of Parliament comprising Shri Rajiv Shukla, Shri Anant Kumar Dattatreya Hegde, Dr. Kirit P. Solanki, and Shri Babul Supriya Baral belonging to different parts of our country.
The abiding theme of my visit to both countries was expanding cooperation in education, research, innovation, trade and investment.
As you are already aware, during this visit we concluded six governmental agreements in Norway for cooperation in the fields of earth sciences, culture, scientific research, medicine and defence, as well as consular matters. Similarly, in Finland, we concluded four governmental agreements in the fields of collaboration and research in renewable energy, bio-technology, civil nuclear research and meteorological issues. The academic delegation accompanying me also established institutional tie-ups with Norwegian and Finnish Universities. I am happy that eight MoUs between educational institutions were signed during the visit in Norway and seventeen in Finland with a view to promoting faculty, student and research exchanges. I also interacted via a video-link with our scientists currently undertaking projects at India’s Research Station in the Arctic, ‘Himadri’as well as with our researchers at the Svalbard University Centre.
This was the first Head of State visit ever from India to Norway. King Harald V and Prime Minister Erna Solberg both expressed deep appreciation for this visit and termed it historic. My delegation and I were overwhelmed by the warmth of the reception and hospitality extended to us. We held extensive discussions on bilateral as well as regional and multilateral issues of mutual concern. I met the President of the Storting – the Norwegian Parliament, their Minister of Trade and Industry, the Minister of Education and Research as well as the Mayor of Oslo. We found, across the board, a deep-seated desire for close cooperation between India and Norway. We are satisfied by the Norwegian government’s expressed desire to take our bilateral relationship to still higher levels of engagement and deepen and diversify collaboration. I was delighted with the happy coincidence of my visit closely following the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to an Indian, Shri Kailash Satyarthi.
In my discussions with Prime Minister Erna Solberg, we agreed that scope for further collaboration existed in the fields of research and development, education, science and technology, innovation, clean technologies and renewable energy as well as in polar research. Prime Minister Solberg of Norway congratulated India for our achievements and progress made in reduction of poverty, maternal health and child mortality under the MDGs. She congratulated us on achieving polio-free status. We agreed that focus should not be lost on the Sustainable Development Goals.
In Finland, we were received warmly by the President and the Government of Finland. We met the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and the Mayors of Helsinki and Rovaniemi as well as the Speaker and Members of the Finnish Parliament. I was privileged to receive the Medal of Honour of the City of Helsinki on behalf of the people of India as a symbol of friendship between India and Finland.
I had extensive discussions on bilateral, multilateral and global issues with the Finnish leadership. We agreed that there were a number of commonalities in our worldview. We exchanged views on issues like the situation in Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and the BRICs Bank. We also discussed the need to cooperate against terrorism, as terrorism knows no borders.
This visit provided an opportunity to discuss our cooperation in the Arctic and in Polar and glacial research in both Norway and Finland, which are members of the Arctic Council. In both the countries, we noted our extensive and wide-ranging cooperation across several sectors, including Science and Technology, Renewable Energy, Maritime issues, Hydrocarbons, Education and Research as well as Environment. India’s leadership and expertise in the IT sector was acknowledged.
In Norway and Finland, I took the opportunity to brief the leadership on the economic situation in India as well as about recent policy initiatives of the new government such as the “Make in India” campaign. I urged that India be seen as an attractive investment destination by both these countries, including by the Norwegian sovereign Global Pension Fund. Both Norway and Finland recognized that there was great potential to enhance our economic and commercial engagements. They both importantly, conveyed that they are looking beyond Europe in this regard. Norway in 2009 and Finland in 2013 have, in fact, brought out Action Plans to strategize their respective relationships with India. In Finland, my suggestion that we should try and double the current level of our bilateral trade from Euro 1 billion to Euro 2 billion over the next three years was agreed to immediately. The Finnish leadership mentioned that their companies are keenly pursuing opportunities to invest in India. The Norwegian side expressed their keenness for the conclusion of negotiations of EFTA and informed that their Government has decided to open a Consulate General in Mumbai.
India announced that Norway is on the list of countries to which Tourist Visa on Arrival facility will soon be extended. This was received with much satisfaction by the Norwegians. The Social Security Agreement is also now ready for implementation which will help our nationals in matters related to immigration and work.
I briefed the Norwegian and the Finnish side about India’s efforts for full membership of the four export control regimes and stressed our impeccable record on non-proliferation. We sought their support in this regard.
We also sought their continued support in our endeavour for reforms in the UN Security Council to reflect the realities of the contemporary world and for India’s candidature’s for a permanent seat in the expanded UN Security Council. Support for India was reiterated by both countries.
I met the sizeable Indian community and addressed the business community in both countries. Several commercial agreements were concluded on the sidelines of my visit between business representatives of the two sides.
I have extended invitations to the King and the Prime Minister of Norway as well as the President and the Prime Minister of Finland to visit India to maintain regularity of high level visits and provide continued momentum to the relationship.
I am satisfied that during this visit and in the course of my interactions with the Norwegian and Finnish leadership, we made progress in a number of areas. Norway and Finland are both highly developed countries, having resources, technological advancements, innovation capabilities and expertise in sectors from which India has much to gain. They have expertise in specialized areas like clean technologies, renewable energy, bio-technology, waste management as also education, research, skill development and innovation. India can cooperate successfully with them keeping in mind the objective of sustainable development for future generations.
I am confident the coming years will see our bilateral relations scale significant new heights”.