Strategically, India’s engagement with the Nordic-Baltic region will play a pivotal role in the emerging new diplomatic dynamics in the Eurasia region.
India is making news from America to Australia. In the US, President Donald Trump’s `personal chemistry’’ is such that he won’t have a G7 meeting without India participating and is offering “free’’ ventilators to New Delhi. In Australian PM Scott Morrison, PM Modi has also found a strategic partner to start a comprehensive partnership in trade and security sectors to counter China and keep the Pacific Ocean waters sans militaristic threats from the Dragon.
However, that’s not the end of India’s diplomatic expanse amid corona. Not many know that Covid19 has also given an opportunity to India to work intensively to cement its business ties and expand its friendship beyond mere formal protocols with the group of eight Nordic-Baltic nations — Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. The group is called NB-8 (Nordic-Baltic 8). While the first five are Nordic nations, the remaining three are the Baltic countries.
The region is very crucial to India and vice-versa and has been somewhat, underplayed and under-explored to its full potential in terms of bilateral trade, investments, security cooperation and cultural exchanges, including tourism and education.
India’s rising importance in the region and the mutual opportunities for intensive engagement is not only beneficial for NB-8 countries, but also a key to New Delhi to keep in check the rising assertiveness of China and Russia alliance to take control from the Pacific to Atlantic.
Perhaps Covid19 pandemic has shifted the geo-political dynamics in such a way that new strategic engagements have become imperative and urgent. Sensing such, the envoys of the eight Nordic-Baltic countries are working full throttle to explore the best of engagement opportunities with New Delhi. There have been at least 15 envoy level meetings attended by ambassadors of each Nordic-Baltic nations since March from the corona came out in the open to threaten the world. They meet every Friday to explore the bilateral engagements at many levels.
From finding the cure to corona in health research with countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden to utilizing India’s brand as a generic medicine capital to benefit the entire region to expanding business opportunities in green energy and environment with Denmark to finding engagement in IT , cyber-security to e-governance with a key Baltic country like Estonia to opening India’s food and agricultural sectors to expanding educational partnerships and promoting investments and entrepreneurships through startups with the entire region, the pandemic brought this key region in India’s diplomacy basket.
Freddy Svane, Denmark Ambassador to India, who chaired one of these meetings, is positive for future. He told The Sunday Guardian: “Cooperation is the answer to many of the new challenges that post-Covid-19 will bring to all of us. Together, the Nordic-Baltic countries are competitors and yet, we are all supplementary. We are a highly fine tuned group of countries sharing the same values and ideals and a strong economic regional bloc. Importantly, we are also having a shared vision for the future which extends to areas of climate, sustainability and we see a huge potential for partnership with India under the current leadership.’’
Svane added that Denmark and India have agreed on a strategic partnership for green energy, ensuring a steady growth for both the economies. He said: “Green energy transition can help kick-starting economies after the Covid-19 pandemic. The choices we take now to restart our economies will determine our ability to create new and permanent jobs and mitigate the impacts of pollution. The Indo-Danish cooperation can help green energy transition to deliver jobs and economic growth while also ensuring that our energy systems are modernised, more resilient and less polluting.”
Sweden and Norway too look to India in sectors like environment, health and to achieve sustainable goals, including recycling and waste reuse to achieve PM Modi’s targets of minimum climate risks. In health, the three Nordic nations – Denmark, Sweden and Norway are looking at multi-level engagements. From sharing high-level research in medical science to finding the cure for corona pandemic to letting India open doors of generic medicine expertise in this region. India is a global capital of generic medicines and if make available an affordable supply of these medicines in real time situations like the current one to Baltic and Nordic regions, it will be a strategic counter to China’s dominance in Eurasia in healthcare sector. Besides, IT sector is one key area for engagements and envoys are working hard to make the most of the gaps bridged with India’s partnership after a lot of Chinese firms have been booted out.. Not to forget, there may not be any firm in Denmark and Sweden without adequate skilled Indian IT-hands operating. We need to expand the level of presence in IT, cyber-security, e-governance and emerging digital technologies for a sustained engagement with the region.
Strategically, India’s engagement with the Nordic-Baltic region will play a pivotal role in the emerging new diplomatic dynamics in Eurasia region. Both China and Russia have aligned to connect the Pacific to the Atlantic. The Baltic countries, in particular, will be a key for the transportation hubs and they may not want to be dependent entirely on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), hence an opportunity for India to offer the alternative markets of engagement and ensure its diplomatic identity and regional progress through high level cooperation in setting up businesses, investments and raise the volume of mutual trade to ensure jobs and incomes.
On business fronts, PM Modi had given a huge stimulus package to the agriculture sector and it’s time to learn from Nordic countries like Denmark and Sweden as how to operate farmers cooperatives to eliminate middlemen and bring in the true prosperity to village households. Envoys see a huge potential for India to maximize its food processing sector to deliver to global demands and also explore the opportunity in tourism by having more connectivity.
Denmark and India are eyeing for technology sharing partnership to boost India’s potential in milk sector. India is world’s largest producer of milk, but it is not that varied as in Nordic region. India has the scale and Denmark has the skills, PM Modi said this recently. A `dairy diplomacy’ with the Nordic nation should be seen in this perspective. It seems there may be many sectors opening new roads of diplomacy with Nordic-Baltic countries to script the new `Great Game’ in Eurasia!