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Growing India-Denmark Ties

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  • May 29, 2024
    Speeches and Lectures

    Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) organised a lecture by H.E. Ambassador Freddy Svane, Ambassador of Denmark to India under the Eminent Persons Lecture Series on “Growing India-Denmark Ties” on 29 May 2024. The interaction was chaired by Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA and attended by the Institute’s scholars.

    Executive Summary

    The event provided a comprehensive overview of the India-Denmark Green Strategic Partnership. It delved into bilateral ties of the two nations while also analysing the future prospects to further develop this strategic partnership. Ambassador Sujan Chinoy highlighted his shared diplomatic experiences with Ambassador Freddy Svane in Japan and India. He praised Amb. Svane's understanding of India and India’s partnership with Denmark, emphasising the significance of their bilateral ties. Amb. Svane discussed the historical relations between India and Denmark, the 75-year milestone of their partnership, and the importance of strategic autonomy for India. He elaborated on the 5Ss of their partnership: scale, skills, strength, speed, and sustainability, also mentioning the potential for collaboration in areas beyond the green partnership, such as defense and the Arctic. He also highlighted Denmark's defense posture post-Russia-Ukraine crises and expressed willingness to collaborate with India. The Q&A session covered aspects including Denmark's wind energy sector, defence collaboration, the Russia-Ukraine crises, possibility of limestone trade, deep-sea fishing, and the future of data, minerals, and green transitions.

    Detailed Report

    Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA delivered the opening remarks. He began by welcoming Ambassador Freddy Svane to MP-IDSA and fondly recalled their common tenure in Tokyo from 2015-2018 as Ambassador of India to Japan and Ambassador of Denmark to Japan, respectively. Amb. Svane is the only ambassador to have held two tenures as Danish Ambassador to India (2010-2015 and 2019- current) as well as to Japan (2005-2008 and 2015-2019). Amb. Chinoy spoke about Amb Svane’s familiarity with India. He mentioned Indian Prime Minister Modi’s 3S formula and said that skill, scale and speed should define India- Denmark relations.

    Amb. Chinoy also highlighted the improvement witnessed in India- Denmark bilateral relations in recent years and requested him to share his views on bilateral ties, Green Strategic Partnership, and emerging scenarios in the Arctic region amongst others. He said that the Green Strategic Partnership has emerged as a crucial aspect in India- Denmark relations and this has been evident from various high level visits in the recent past. The trade and investment statistics seem to suggest that the full potential has yet to be realised. He expressed hope that this would pick up pace in coming times. With this he invited Amb. Svane to deliver the lecture.

     H.E. Amb. Freddy Svane commenced the lecture by mentioning the biggest diplomatic victory- the India Denmark Green Strategic Partnership. He quoted Denmark’s current demographic figures and the advent of Danish people 400 years ago to what is now called Tamil Nadu in November 1620 as traders, not colonisers. He mentioned the historical fabric trade between the two regions and a recent event in Denmark to commemorate that. In 2024 India-Danish partnership has reached the milestone of 75 years, which had started with building strategies to manage trade ties with India.

    Amb. Svane recalled his last posting in India when he was invited by a private company to inaugurate an industrial plant in Gujarat and how he met the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2011. He credits that particular bilateral meeting as the starting point of India’s green partnership with Denmark. He also highlighted the west’s pattern of dictating to other countries what to do but reiterated that Denmark has no such intentions vis-a-vis India or the west. It does not want to teach or preach to others. He mentioned the increasing investments coming to India and that India is not only the largest market in terms of size but also a democratic country with its own rights and sovereignty. Giving the Danish perspective Amb. Svane said that it is best if India exercises its strategic autonomy rather than join a specific camp and tow that line.

    Amb. Svane underscored that the green strategic partnership is based on the 5Ss of scale, skills, strength, speed and sustainability. India has the Scale which is reflected in its capacity and capability; Denmark has the necessary technological Skills; Strength of this partnership comes from affordability and resilience, which are unique to the Indian developmental agenda; Speed is required in achieving the goals laid out for climate change and SDGs; and lastly, Sustainability is crucial, which is why Copenhagen would be willing for joint collaborations beyond the green partnership to include sectors like defence, Arctic and critical minerals. Science is the sixth S which will be added in the next meeting as innovation is the key to Indo-Danish relations.

    Amb Svane mentioned what comprises the Kingdom of Denmark- Denmark, Greenland, and Faroe Islands- where foreign policy and defence is managed by the capital seat in Copenhagen. Greenland is approximately ¾ the size of the Indian subcontinent but inhabits a small population of around 60 thousand. It caught global attention when the vast ice sheets across the island began to melt, giving rise to unexplored reserves of resources, critical minerals, and trade routes. Since Denmark is a founding member of the Arctic Council, its vision is greatly defined by the values dear to Danish people. Amb. Svane went on to mention the critical role played by Denmark in ensuring India’s addition as an observer state to the Arctic Council in 2013 and how the then Deputy NSA of India discussed India’s arctic vision with him. The conversation revolved around resources and critical minerals found in Greenland but India was very much interested in scientific engagement at that time.  It was involved in ice cold drilling, R&D and other procedures. Amb. Svane emphasised that Denmark wants to give India as much role in Arctic as possible owing to the reality of climate change.

    On the defence front Amb. Svane recognised that historically Denmark has fought many wars and lost them all. Post cold war, it chose to close down the military installation in Greenland. The naval base there was put up for auction and its biggest bidder was an Australian company. This was very surprising as Australia is geographically distant from Greenland but it was later discovered that this firm had some Chinese connections. Similarly, Chinese involvement has recently increased in tenders for building airports and critical infrastructure too.

    Concluding his remarks, Amb. Svane commented on Indian interests in Denmark, which are evident from several visits of its new Ambassador to Greenland and Faroe Islands. Deep sea fishing and mining are significant issues that India has to deal with. As of now there are no fish left in the strait separating India from Sri Lanka. Denmark has the required technology for it and Faroe Islands have the experience of dealing with issues like deep sea fishing. Cooperation in such fields could prove useful for both the parties. Democratic dialogue in India is strong. There is no yardstick to measure democracy but each country has its own set of issues and situations.

    Q&A Session

    Amb. Chinoy thanked Amb. Svane for his insightful remarks and opened the floor for questions. Scholars of MP-IDSA asked diverse questions ranging from Denmark’s promising wind energy sector, India-Denmark defence collaboration, the Ambassador’s views on Russia-Ukraine crises, high limestone reserves in Denmark and its possible trade with trade, and the kind of collaboration possible with India over deep sea fishing.

    Amb. Svane answered the questions, commencing with the one on renewable energy. He mentioned the oil crises of 1970s and how the governments were left to fend for alternate sources of energy. Denmark had researchers and scientists working on the R&D needed for this. Denmark had the first mover’s advantage amongst the European nations, especially in wind energy. Today 75 per cent of its electricity comes from renewables. For the critical minerals required in wind turbines, Denmark relies on China, which is known for mining and processing these critical minerals. The current Danish Government having stopped mining as it is environmentally degrading, leaves the question of mineral procurement unanswered. What can be done to access certain minerals if their mining is under the monopoly of one country?  In fact, in India too most of the work related to wind turbines is being done by China and not surprisingly these installations are mostly India’s near critical infrastructure. Last 7 GW of commissioned turbines were given to Chinese companies. What most people do not realise is that those managing the software in these systems also have access to the data that the software constantly collects. This is one of the reasons why US has become vary of China’s inroads in the cyber and technology sector and has put in place certain legislations to minimise that damage.

    Answering the question on defence procurement, Amb. Svane said that Denmark is re-arming itself post the Russia Ukraine crises, in accordance to the NATO norms. It would be great to collaborate with allies like India in this regard. Copenhagen is open to all kinds of possibilities to re-build its defence industry. With regard to Russia-Ukraine crises, Amb. Svane reiterated that he does not want to preach or teach anybody. He mentioned that Denmark is sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine alongside helping them out in aid and other matters. India’s stand on the crises was a tough one for Amb. Svane to explain to the west but he referred to the 1962 India - China war when India was left to fend for itself as no help from the west arrived when India needed it. According to Amb. Svane, Denmark understands the reasons for Indian dependence on Russian arms and ammunitions and would be happy to help India diversify in this sector. He even praised the recent increase in India-Russia oil trade and how this helped keep market prices of oil under control. The real threat recognised in the region was China. If India could somehow keep China under control, Denmark would do all that it can to help India diversify its supply chains which are currently dependent on China.

    Concluding the Q&A round, Amb. Svane responded to the query on limestone trade by mentioning that the top most traded item from Europe to India is waste. It is indeed a sad state of affairs that India buys tonnes of scrap metal and e-waste from Europe but if this can be replaced by other items including limestone, that would be beneficial for both the parties. Lastly the issue of deep sea fishing was addressed. The Danish Ambassador said that Faroe Islands have proven capabilities and knowledge on this matter as well as on the issue of deep sea mining. The future is about data, minerals and green transitions, all of which are sensitive aspects of critical development, especially for certain sectors like defence, cyber, and IT amongst others.

    After concluding the Q&A session, Amb Chinoy thanked H.E. Amb. Freddy Svane, Ambassador of Denmark to India and the audience for a fruitful engagement.

    Report has been prepared by Ms. Anandita Bhada, Research Analyst, Europe and Eurasia Centre, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.