New Delhi: The Sunday Guardian caught up with Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson, who was in New Delhi this week with a business delegation. His visit also marked the beginning of the operations of Iceland’s low-cost long-haul airline, WOW air, from India. WOW air’s inaugural flight was flagged off from Indira Gandhi International Airport on Friday. The airline will operate three weekly flights from New Delhi, connecting passengers to North America and Europe through their hub in Iceland.
Q: What brings you to India?
A: This is the first direct flight between India and Iceland. I am here on an official visit and also have a business delegation of about 50 people from more than 20 companies. We are interested in doing more trade with India.
Q: What sort of business relationship can India and Iceland have?
A: Lots. First, we can name tourism—both ways. Also, trade in seafood. We export high quality seafood and lamb meat. We are interested in the Indian market but there has been a bit of problem because of bureaucracy. But we are hoping to solve it. There is a huge potential when it comes to renewable energies. For almost 100 years, Iceland has used geothermal and hydro energy. Our 90% energy consumption is renewable. Geothermal energy can be used to heat up houses and to generate electricity. Hydro power is also used for this. This is an experience we are sharing with countries all around the world. The good thing about geo-thermal and hydro energy is that it is reliable. It is 24/7. For example, in China, we have cleaned up cities there in cooperation with Chinese firms—where you have a lot of pollution because of heating up of houses. But there is no pollution now. It’s the same you will find in Iceland. There is no pollution. This is the biggest thing in fighting climate change. Also, there are Indian films’ shooting in Iceland. There is a lot opportunities that we can work on like sports and education. There are plenty, so the question is how we are going to use it.
Q: What made WOW air come to India?
A: Because of the interest from Icelanders to come to India. Also Iceland has been a hub between Europe and North America for decades and now the aim is to connect it also to Asia. We have a population of 350,000, but 10 million go through our airport every year. For example, we have more direct flights to North America today than the Nordic capitals combined in a week. So to have New Delhi in this connection makes a lot of opportunities. A lot of people travelling between Europe and North America stop in Iceland for a few days, including Indian tourists.