Strategy for India

Meeting at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Department for Asia and the Pacific;
in Stockholm 31 March 2004, about formulating an India policy and strategy

Background: The Swedish government has decided to develop a more active policy in relation to India. This is motivated by the great dynamic factors in the Indian economy, and the opportunity for increased trade and investments for Swedish business. India has also recently decided to decline from accepting official development cooperation with Sweden (and a number of other countries). But India still needs development cooperation in a number of fields like poverty eradication and environmental policies.

Participants: A great number of government officials from the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Trade, Sida etc. had been called as had representatives of Swedish business and the academic community. All academicians present were from the SASNET network: Staffan Lindberg from SASNET in Lund, Hans Blomkvist and Sten Widmalm from Uppsala, Eva Myrdal from East Asian Museum in Stockholm (formerly Museion, Göteborg), Kjell Härenstam from Karlstad and Bent Jörgensen from Göteborg,
The meeting was lead by Klas Molin, Deputy Head of the Department for Asia and the Pascific, seconded by Anna Jakenberg Brinck, Anne Höglund and Ingrid Navlakha Forsberg. Present was also Inga Eriksson Fogh who is about to become the Swedish Ambassador to India.
Prominent among representatives for the business community were Ulf Hjalmarsson and Bo Landin, (Sweden – India Business Council), Per-Olof Björk (Ericsson) and Hans G Ekdal (DeLaval).
There were no representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations.

Official strategy: An important background is the networking between Swedish and Indian businessmen in 2002 and 2003, the formation of a Sweden – India Business Council in 2003, the Leif Pagrotsky delegation to India in April 2003, and Göran Persson’s visit to India in January 2004. A follow up to this is planned in late October 2004, when Mr. Sven-Eric Söder will make visit to India along with businessmen.
The Government strategy aims at an increase of official visits to India and to Sweden. The Indian Prime Minister and Minster of Foreign Affairs have both been invited to Sweden.
Sweden wants to sustain a dialogue with India on security issues and cooperation in this field. It has a strong interest in SARC and regional cooperation. It also wants to increase cooperation in relation to WTO where there is felt to be a strong common interest. The Swedish government is keen on promoting mutual trade and investments and wants to improve India’s image in Sweden. Fields of interaction include IT and telecommunications, environmental cooperation, especially when it comes to urban environment, water resource and energy use. There is a storing mutual interest in these areas and a development from aid to networks of business and researchers in both countries. Sida should use its vast knowledge about environmental issues in India.
The government also wants to promote research and higher education about India, academic exchange and aims at a general agreement between Sweden and India about research and education cooperation. There is a special interest in biotechnology and stem cell research.
Finally, there is a strong ambition to increase cultural exchange, for example in film making – Bollywood meets Trollywood.

Suggestion from the participants: Bo Landin opened up by saying that much could be learned from our earlier development in relation to China, and Per-Olof Björk added that India is about eight years after China, and that now is the right moment for increased interaction. Ulf Hjalmarsson suggested we identify concrete areas of cooperation with projects related to IT and software production, the environmental sector, traffic security, etc. One example of a concrete effort is to make textile production more environmentally sustainable. Hans Ekdal, DeLaval, emphasized the need for new policies and strategies in the field of agriculture, where production is now stagnating, water is lacking, pesticides overused, and where there is to little of agro-based industries to absorb agricultural production.

Jan Essner from Sida said that Sida had good experiences from working with the civil society (NGOs) in India since the end of the 1990s. Focus has been on poverty and social development/human rights as well as on poverty and environment. Sida has been able to influence policies and reforms in India through innovative co-operation with NGOs. UD and Sida is at present discussing and developing a new policy and strategy with India. He thought that there was increasing interest in India for Swedish 'solutions'.

Academic exchange: Staffan Lindberg presented SASNET’s ideas about increased academic cooperation:
The first idea is to organise workshops/conferences with Indian and Swedish researchers
on for example:

- Biotechnology
- Infrastructure, water and constructions
- IT and telecommunications
- Security and regional cooperation
- Business and cultures

Each workshop/conference can be arranged by our specialists, and take place here or in India. For example, PADRIGU and the Dept. of Peace and Conflict Research in Uppsala could arrange the workshop on Security, etc.
The second idea is that SASNET could network among its partners to set up a Swedish School of Advanced South Asia Studies (SASA) with doctoral scholarships, courses, workshops, guest-scholars, post-docs, etc. Model: SSAAPS, see http://www.sasnet.lu.se/japan#ssaaps, and the NorfAsia proposal to NofsA last year, see http://www.sasnet.lu.se/norfasia.pdf.
Staffan Lindberg also informed about the conference in modern South Asian studies in Lund, 6-9 July 2004. See conference web page: http://www.sasnet.lu.se/EASAS18.html

Hans Blomkvist added that Uppsala University has a long experience of academic cooperation with Indian institutions. He emphasized the need for a general agreements with India in this field. Kjell Härenstam told about the cooperation Karlstad University has with Banaras Hindu University in the field of teachers’ education since 1986.
Other concrete suggestions included an idea from Eva Myrdal to organise exhibitions here and in India. The last great exchange in the cultural field took place in the late 1980’s with an Indian Festival in Sweden 1987 and a Sweden Festival in India. Maybe something similar could be organised in 2007?
One view expressed was that Sweden should do more in relation to India via the European Union and Commission, the ‘imperial level’ of interaction which India think is appropriate.

Reference group for further discussions and initiatives: It was suggested that those present should form a reference group for further discussions and initiatives and meet about twice a year. It was pointed out that representatives for NGO’s active in India could also be invited.

Reported by Staffan Lindberg, SASNET

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