Historically, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, was among the very first countries to recognize India’s independence, on the very day of Independence itself in 1947. Our diplomatic relations date back to early 1950’s and Norway’s very first international development cooperation was in the fisheries of Kerala.
The Indo-Norwegian cooperation largely covers wide areas such as climate change and energy, biodiversity and environment, clean technologies, geohazards, health, gender, local governance, culture and business.
The growing business cooperation between Norway and India is broadly indicated through:
• The Norwegian Business Association (India) (NBAI), which was established in 2013 with the aim to enhance bilateral relationships and to promote business in general between Norway and India.
• Secondly, India was chosen to host the “Norway Asia Business Summit, 2015”, thereby illustrating the important role India has as a business partner in the Asian region.
Research and Education
To follow up on the Norwegian Government’s India strategy (2009) the Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has financed a 10-year research programme of 20 million NOK(Norwegian Krone) annually. The Norwegian Research Council administers this INDNOR programme.
The Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the University Grants Commission (UGC), the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU) and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research work closely on matters of research and higher education. A directed programme was also initiated to increase mobilisation of students and faculty, in line with the Joint Working Group on higher education.
Arctic and Polar Research
• The High North, with Svalbard, the northernmost part of Norway, offers a unique front row seat to observe both climate change and other major meteorological and atmospheric changes. India is working to seize on this opportunity. In 2008 India opened the Himadri research station in Svalbard. Since then, activities at the station have been increasing, and new research scientists arrive at regular intervals.
• India, with its presence of highly-skilled researchers, has become a significant contributor to the Arctic scientific advancements and harnesses its experience from the Antarctica.
• The University Centre in Svalbard hosts many Indian students.
India and Norway engage against the threat from piracy in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
Both India and Norway have sent military vessels to the region to take part in counter-piracy efforts, and are cooperating through various international mechanisms, such as the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to increase the effectiveness of these efforts.
Maritime and marine sectors
• India, with its long coast line, is situated close to some of the most important sea routes of the world, connecting the Middle East to South and South-East Asia. Norwegian-controlled ships are sailing through these seas, calling frequently at Indian ports.
• An estimated 2000 Indian sailors and officers are working on-board Norwegian owned and controlled ships. Norway has a substantial presence in the Indian Ocean through its merchant fleet, which is sixth largest in the world
• Indian yards use Norwegian ship designs and are also building ships for Norwegian companies. Correspondingly, Norwegian yards are also building specialized vessels for the Indian companies. Norwegian equipments are installed in Indian ships.
• India's interests in the Arctic region are commercial, environmental, scientific, as well as strategic. According to official estimates, the Arctic holds 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits and 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves.
• With the setting up of Joint Working Group Maritime in 2010, Norwegian maritime industry has established numerous business partnerships in India. Some of the areas identified for collaboration are Inland Waterways and Coastal Shipping, LNG based Shipping, Cooperation in Ports and Sustainable Shipping.
The Norway India Partnership Initiative (NIPI) was set up in 2006. Its vision is to “provide strategic and catalytic support that would make a difference to enhance the quality of child health services under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)”.
During initial six years, the initiative primarily focused on four states (Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Rajasthan). It was implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). In 2013, it was decided by both the countries to extend the duration of NIPI up to 2017.
• Reliance Industries has awarded some of the world’s largest subsea contracts ever to its renowned Norwegian counterpart Aker Solutions, which is delivering advanced offshore gas production systems in the Bay of Bengal.
• The Norwegian telecom company Telenor Group is investing in India, under the name Uninor. Just within a month when Uninor launched its mobile services in India in December 2009, it got 1.2 million subscribers. That is the equivalent to a quarter of all Norwegian citizens.
• Indian IT service providers are securing more and more high-profile outsourcing deals in the Nordic countries, involving the likes of Nokia and DNB(Norway's largest financial services group). With companies such as Wipro and HCL Technologies announcing further investments in the region, their presence is expected to grow.
• While most services are still offshore, companies such as HCL Technologies, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Wipro, Infosys and Tech Mahindra have several offices in Nordics and a growing number of local delivery centers. Companies in other sectors have followed suit, such as Tata Motors.
• Culture is an important part of India's diplomatic missions around the world and an integrated part of the foreign policy.
• Norway and India signed the current culture cooperation agreement in 2010, which focuses on contemporary art, dance and music, literature and theatre.
• A White Paper to Parliament on culture was presented by Norway in 2013. It highlights cultural rights and further cooperation in India and other emerging economies.
‘India strategy’ of the Norwegian Government
• Launched in August 2009, it includes four priority areas for enhanced cooperation:
1) international political issues
2) climate change, environmental and energy issues
3) further development of economic and business ties
4) building further on the successful exchanges in the areas of research, higher education and culture.
• Norway intends to gain from the remarkable experience of Indian people living in a multicultural and tolerant society, thereby, learning from the experience of the world’s largest democracy.
• It also has the largest sovereign wealth fund, called the Government Pension Fund, of more than $850 billion, of which it has invested around $4 billion in India so far. This fund, earlier known as ‘Oil fund’, is a result of large state revenues from petroleum activities which resulted in accumulation of substantial financial assets. Norway is the world’s third largest exporter of hydrocarbons and has huge reserves of oil and gas.
Support for Memberships
• Norway supported India in becoming a permanent observer in the Arctic Council, the only circumpolar cooperation forum in the north in May 2013
• Norway supports India’s ambition of having a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Like India, Norway is promoting global structures and rules that will more closely reflect the changes on the global political scene.
• There is also a surge in “intense discussions” over India’s NSG membership. The support of Nordic countries, especially Norway, is critical in this regard, as previously they had all been seen as “hardliners” for non-proliferation, insisting India to sign the NPT before it could be admitted.
India- Norway Joint Commission Meeting (JCM)
• It was held in November 2015 in New Delhi
• Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway, led a delegation of senior officials to India
• External Affairs Minister of India discussed a variety of bilateral issues including investment, infrastructure, skill development, trade, renewable energy, fisheries, maritime matters, hydrocarbons, education, health and culture
• Regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest too were discussed
Outcomes of President’s visit to Norway, October 2014
• President Pranab Mukherjee became the first Indian President to visit Norway
• The two countries signed several MoUs in the fields of education, health, research for vaccines, science and technology, cultural co-operation and exchanges, etc.
• India’s DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) and Norway’s Defence Research Institute have signed a Statement of Intent to explore opportunities for cooperation in research and development programs in the field of defence research
• India has signed an Agreement on Visa Exemption with Norway that will exempt Indian holders of official and diplomatic passports from the requirement of obtaining a visa.
India and Norway have enjoyed close and friendly relations marked by commercial exchanges, high-level visits and people-to-people contacts. The State visit of the President to Norway in October 2014 was a milestone which has helped in giving further momentum to the bilateral relationship.
Meanwhile, Norway is witnessing increased maritime traffic in its coastal waters as the melting ice opens up new sea lanes in the High North and the Arctic, opening up perspectives of new sea routes connecting Asia and Europe.
The potential accessibility of natural resources in the Arctic– non-renewable ones like oil and gas, and renewable ones like valuable fish stocks, also enhances need for faster commercial and strategic relations.