India and Sweden – New Vistas of Cooperation”

Speech by the Ambassador of India, Ms. Chitra Narayanan,
at a Seminar in Stockholm related to the visit of a Delegation from
the Confederation of Indian Industries, CII, on 7 October, 2002.

Honourable Minister of Trade Mr. Leif Pagrotsky, Mr. Michael Trescow, Mr. Ashok Soota and members of the Indian delegation, distinguished representatives of industry from India and Sweden,
May I express my appreciation to Minister Pagrotsky for his encouragement and support for the productive success of this seminar.

1. I would like to express my appreciation to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, the Swedish Trade Council and the Federation of Trade for organising this seminar India and Sweden – New Vistas of Cooperation on the occasion of the visit to Sweden of distinguished CEOs from the Confederation of Indian Industries. In August 2001, Mr. Ashok Soota, CEO of Mindtree, visited Stockholm as Vice President of CII and made a commitment to me that he would bring a high level business delegation to Stockholm to facilitate a direct dialogue with significant players in Swedish industry. As you can see, Mr. Soota, now President of CII, has kept his word. Thank you.

2. In December 2000 Environment Minister Mr. Kjell Larsson visited India with a twenty member delegation to explore collaboration in environment technology. The visit gave the required impetus to energize business relations. Today’s seminar is a result of the energy generated by Mr. Larsson’s initiative.

3. India and Sweden have been economic companions for over a century. As in all relationships, there are moments when both partners must step back and look upon each other with a fresh perspective. This is particularly necessary when both countries have evolved tremendously and in the case of India, changed dramatically in certain sectors. The old preconceived notions are not necessarily valid today and it is crucial that this aspect must be realised and appreciated.

4. Asia is a formidable economic factor in today’s world and India a major Asian player. With a middle class of 300 million a little over the size of the population of the United States, it is understandable that USA and Europe consider India a vital market for their trade interests. It is often forgotten that India is the size of Europe with some states the size of entire European nations. Many in Sweden find it difficult to conceive and appreciate the enormous task of governance of a country this size and with 1 billion people and at the same time remain a vibrant democracy. A further aspect to be taken into account is that India’s trade experience with USA is not familiar or well known in Sweden even in the IT sector, particularly as the latter is the major IT power in Europe. The closely knitted cohesion between industry, development activities and foreign policy in Sweden is greatly admired all over Europe. Indian business companies doing business with Sweden would find it useful to take these factors into account. This would make a major difference in overcoming the perception gap.

5. Today India is a major economic player. There are studies projecting that if the present economic trend continues, China will overtake the USA in the global output, with India becoming the third largest economy by 2012. India’s GDP growth rate has risen from 5.0% in 1980 to 6.0% during 2000-2001 and the trend continues. In keeping with our obligations under the WTO regime substantial quantitative restrictions on imports have been phased out and the Foreign Direct Investment or FDI regime has been substantially liberalized over the past few years. Globalisation has raised aspirations. Indians are no longer willing to tolerate poverty. They want to go up in the income stream and believe it is their right to be prosperous. However, the globalisation process tends to be inequitably balanced. Developed countries protect their markets as and when it suits their domestic compulsions. The globalisation process must be recast around the principles of equal opportunities and just multilateral institutions. Sweden appreciates India’s viewpoint and our cooperation in the multilateral fora including the EU and WTO has been productive.

6. A November 2001 Forrester research study on India indicates that by 2003 a large number of companies will engage offshore providers who are gaining greater acceptability as the budgets for the offshore activities are expected to go up to 28% from the current 12%. This study highlights the advantages of India with its decade old experience in the IT development area, fluency in English, supportive government policy, good infrastructure and high quality professionals. Another survey by Mckinsey comparing international costs concluded that the cost of doing offshore software development in India was almost 30 – 80% lower as compared to that in the US or in Europe. This is a result of the expanding stock of Indian talent base, which forms the second largest pool of English speaking scientific manpower, and which is likely to be tripled by 2008.

7. The Indian Copyrights Act has been made one of the most stringent in the world. I would like to quote from London Financial Times of August 20, 2002 “FDI in India has more than doubled over the last year in spite of international fear. In particular the mobile phone market, doubling every year with more than 7 million customers, is attracting large scale inflows from companies such as AT&T and Hutchinson Telecom US and European companies are also investing heavily in India’s call center industry, which is growing by 70% a year. Economists predict that FDI in the country’s growing biotech and pharmaceutical sectors will grow sharply following the enactment of a bill earlier this year bringing India’s intellectual property rights into line with World Trade Organization standards.”

8. 15 major Indian IT companies have established their presence in Sweden. The latest agreement of a letter of intent between Ericsson and Wipro which will take over Ericsson’s R&D units in India under an outsourcing contract is an example of collaboration for mutual benefit. This seems to be a star-studded week for Indian industry. Apart from the distinguished delegation visiting Sweden, currently, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt is in India to interact with 19,000 GE professionals handling GE’s presence in India in aircraft engines, broadcasting, capital services, lighting and medical instruments. The recently established John F. Welch Technology Centre in Bangalore is India’s first and largest industry multi disciplinary research center.
Currently, the CEO of American Express Ken Chenault is inaugurating their first global service center in India. Texas Instruments Chairman and CEO Tom Engibous is visiting India’s IT capital Bangalore. Shantanu Narayen, Executive Vice President, Adobe India is inaugurating this week the company’s largest research and development facility outside the US.
Honeywell in its new strategy for India released last week, has declared its expansion plan to increase by 1,000 its current strength of 2025 engineers, to further its activities in India in aerospace, transportation, power equipment and specialty materials, in particular manufacturing Spectra fibres.
Also this week the Rector of the KTH, Anders Flodström, is visiting India with 11 distinguished professors, to meet with partner institutes and the steel and automotive industry. The US is India’s largest single trade partner. The European Union remains India’s largest trading partner, accounting for 23.37 per cent of India’s exports and 20.75 per cent of total Indian imports in the year 2000-2001.

9. Sweden has made its presence felt in Indian even before independence. Ericsson supplied manual switchboards since 1903 and today there are over 100 Indo-Swedish joint ventures from engineering to pharmaceuticals. In addition, Swedish companies have concluded over 200 technical cooperation agreements. However, bilateral India Swedish trade is modest. Perhaps it is time to explore collaboration for third country export particularly in areas of mutual interest like the Baltic States and the EU candidate countries which have a tradition of trade with India. India is committed to convert the digital opportunity into a digital destiny while bridging the digital divide and we welcome our Swedish friends to jointly explore and exploit and share the opportunities in e-commerce, IT enabled services, Biotics, environmental technology, telecommunications, wireless and cellular telephony, infotainment, convergence and digitalization, new access devices for the internet, R&D and many other areas where Sweden has expertise. I am sure this seminar will go a long way towards exploring challenges and opportunities and I wish it all success.

10. Though subconsciously many are familiar with facts about Indian achievements this may be an appropriate opportunity to name a few. India has contributed 6 Nobel Laureates to the world, the first in 1913 was the poet Rabindranath Tagore, who visited Sweden more than once. The other Nobel Laureates were the Physicist C.V. Raman in 1930 for the discovery of the “Raman Effect” in optics, Amartya Sen in Economics, Mother Teresa for Peace, Hargobind Khorana for genetics, S. Chandrasekhar, the astrophysicist.
The Indian physicist S.N. Bose’s work on light particles together with Einstein came to be known as the Bose-Einstein Effect. In more recent times, another Indian, Amar Bose a professor of electrical engineering at MIT revolutionized stereo systems with his design concepts known as Bose Speakers to deliver the emotional impact of live music. Arun Netrevelli, former President of Bell Laboratories, holds more than 70 patents in the areas of computer networks, human interfaces to machines and digital television.
Hotmail was created by Sabeer Bhatia who sold it to Microsoft for US $ 400 million. The Pentium chip was created by another Indian, Vinod Dhami. India is amongst the few countries who have sent their own satellites into space – more than 10. The first Indian in space was Rakesh Sharma who went into space with a Russian space vehicle on 2 April 1984. And these achievements are already considered in India as history together with the contribution between 1200 and 500 BC of the concept of numerals the zero, minus sign and theories in algebra, geometry and astronomy.

11. I would like to emphasise that we would like to expand our trade relations with Sweden. We want to do business with Sweden. We want a trade relationship that is based on mutual respect and benefit. All nations have their idiosyncrasies. India is a large country with a large bureaucracy essential to govern and facilitate our domestic demands. Democracy is fundamental to our system and like all nations who believe in free speech and fundamental rights, there is a process for everything. Anyone who has waited in a chemist, clinic or bank in Stockholm will understand.

12. In conclusion I would like to mention that although the West has endowed us with the image of a spiritual nation with our great philosophical and spiritual heritage we must not allow others to forget that India is, and was, from ancient times fundamentally a trading nation. India is a union of federal states and multilingual and multicultural. It is a tribute to democracy that such a vast country can be governed without sacrificing democratic principles. Maybe our progress is not as fast as we would like it to be, maybe it will take longer to reach our goals and yes, there is much to be done to close the gap between the rich and the poor, but the individual has rights and dignity and the freedom to exercise these rights and this is what makes India part of the free world.

Ms Chitra Narayanan


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