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Transcript of Special Virtual Briefing following India-Sweden Virtual Summit by Secretary (West) ( March 05, 2021)

March 06, 2021

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends, good evening and welcome. We are starting our Special Virtual Briefing. This is on the Virtual Bilateral Summit between PM and PM of Sweden which was concluded a short while ago. To brief us on this virtual summit, I have with me Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West) in the ministry. He is joined by Smt. Neeta Bhushan, Joint Secretary (Central Europe). To begin with Secretary will make his opening remarks and thereafter he'll take your questions. Over to you sir.

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Thank you Anurag. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Sweden H.E. Stefan Löfven today held wide ranging discussions during a Virtual Summit which lasted just under an hour.

This was the fifth interaction between the two leaders since 2015. Prime Minister Modi had visited Stockholm in April, 2018 for the First India Nordic Summit. Prime Minister H.E. Stefan Löfven had visited India in February, 2016 for the special "Make in India” week. Earlier, the two leaders had met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, 2015. In April, 2020, the two Prime Ministers had a telephonic conversation to discuss the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to the above, President Pranab Mukherjee had visited Sweden in 2015 and Their Majesties Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia (King & Queen) of Sweden had visited India in December 2019. The regular high-level interactions between the two countries reflect the strong commitment on both sides for deepening the multi-faceted partnership.

During the Summit, both leaders underlined that the longstanding close relations between India and Sweden are based on shared values of democracy, rule of law, pluralism, equality, freedom of speech, and respect for human rights. They reaffirmed their strong commitment to work for multilateralism, rules-based international order, counter terrorism, peace and security. This partnership is rooted in common values; intensifying collaboration in Innovation, R&D, Clean Technologies, trade and Investment linkages; and cooperation in meeting global challenges like climate change.

Prime Minister Modi expressed concern at the violent attack in Sweden on 3rd March and wished speedy recovery to the victims. Prime Minister Löfven announced the decision of Sweden to join the International Solar Alliance. Welcoming the decision, Prime Minister Modi stated that Sweden’s expertise and experience in clean and renewable technologies would contribute significantly to the Solar Alliance and our collective efforts to meet the challenges of Climate Change.

In this regard they also noted the growing membership of the India-Sweden joint initiative – the Leadership Group on Industry Transition (LeadIT) that was launched during the UN Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary General in September 2019 in New York. The two leaders reviewed the extensive ongoing engagement, and expressed satisfaction at the implementation of the Joint Action Plan and Joint Innovation Partnership agreed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Sweden in 2018.

The two leaders welcomed the creation of a Sweden-India Health Hub at AIIMS-Jodhpur with the participation of the Karolinska Institute. They also welcomed the proposed MoUs on (i) Aviation Knowledge Exchange and Technical Transfer Programme; as well as (ii) Cooperation between financial services regulators to enhance cross-border participation and promote knowledge sharing.

They welcomed the progress made in joint research and industrial collaborations in areas including life sciences & healthcare, circular economy, waste to wealth, water, smart cities, smart grids, e-mobility, and Artificial Intelligence among others that provide sustainable development solutions. Prime Minister Modi welcomed the steadily increasing number of Swedish companies in India that are not just manufacturing but also setting up R&D centres which is a clear reflection of the growing Ease of Doing Business and Innovation in India.

The two Prime Ministers expressed gratitude for the front line and healthcare workers across the world who have displayed indomitable courage. They appreciated the remarkable efforts by researchers and entrepreneurs who have joined hands with governments to meet the challenge by producing vaccines in record time. They stressed the need for vaccine equity by providing urgent and affordable access to vaccines across all nations. Cooperation in areas including polar research, space and defence sectors was also discussed. It is to be noted that India is an Observer at the Arctic Council, where Sweden is one of the eight members.

Prime Minister Löfven congratulated India on the commencement of its eighth term as an elected member of the UN Security Council for the term 2021-2022. Prime Minister Modi congratulated Sweden on assuming the Chairmanship of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) for 2021. The leaders also discussed regional and global issues of mutual interest. Both sides welcomed the growing cooperation under the framework of India-EU and India-Nordic engagements.

The two leaders also took note of the following proposed MoUs: (a) MOU between Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Luftfartsverket (LFV Air Navigation Services of Sweden) concerning Aviation Knowledge Exchange and Technical Transfer Programme; (b) MOU between International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) and Finansinspectionen (Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority) for mutual cooperation to enhance cross-border participation and promote knowledge sharing between the authorities.

The Virtual Summit carried forward the momentum in the multifaceted and forward-looking India-Sweden ties. The two leaders expressed satisfaction and confidence that the areas of cooperation under the India-Sweden partnership will continue to deepen and gain further strength. The two leaders also agreed to revive dialogue at the level of NSA and discussed cooperation between the two National Security Council Secretariats. The two leaders agreed to meet again during the next India-Nordic Summit to be held later this year. A Joint Statement is being released and a copy will be available on our website. And once you see that statement, you will recognize how wide ranging and how multifaceted the partnership between India and Sweden is. And this summit will definitely give a new fillip to bilateral engagement between the two democracies. So this is my statement. And now I'm ready for questions, if there are any.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Thank you sir. Thank you for those opening remarks. I'll move on to the questions that we've received. I'll start with a question from Siddhanth from Wion, "Was the Saab fighter jet tender discussed?

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): I would say that both prime ministers noted that defence is an important area of long standing collaboration between India and Sweden. And of course, we are aware of Swedish interest in the Gripen aircraft being manufactured in India. So this was reiterated.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I think the next two questions which I have with me are on the Gripen fighter aircraft. I'll read them out I think you've already responded to them sir. "During talks with Prime Minister Modi, has Swedish leader offered to produce its Gripen fighter aircraft in India under Make in India programme?” This is from Ranjeet Kumar from Rakshak News. Similar question from Nainima from the Print. I'll move on to the next question, this is from Siddhanth. He wants to know "On Covid pandemic, what were the key issues discussed? Any request from Sweden on vaccines?”

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): This was obviously an important issue for discussion between the two leaders because they were meeting under the shadow of the pandemic and that is why the interaction was virtual. The Prime Minister of Sweden greatly appreciated India's role as pharmacy of the world. Prime Minister Modi mentioned that India had provided Made in India vaccines to around 50 countries all over the world, and we are committed to supplying to more countries and both sides agreed to remain committed to the equitable supply of vaccines.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Nainima from the Print wants to know, "Was the issue of Greta Thunberg comments on farmer’s protests taken up by India with Sweden?” Similar question from Siddhant from WION.

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): The answer is no. This is not a bilateral issue between India and Sweden.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Sir, I'll move on to a question again from Siddhanth, "Was the Myanmar issue raised by any side?”

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Yes, both leaders expressed their concern on recent developments in Myanmar. Prime Minister Modi mentioned that as a country that shares land and maritime border with Myanmar, we have the highest stakes in peace and stability in that country. We have traditional, cultural, religious and people to people ties with Myanmar. As a democracy ourselves, we have remained invested in supporting the democratic transition of Myanmar for it to emerge as a Democratic Federal Union. The recent developments are therefore of deep concern to India, and are being closely monitored. We strongly believe that the rule of law must be upheld and safety of people remains our priority.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sir, another question from Siddhanth, "Any plans on India-Nordic summit? Since the last summit with Denmark last year, it was decided that the summit will take place in Denmark. Any dates for the summit?”

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Both India and the Nordic countries collectively recognize the value of frequent high level exchanges between the two sides. We are all united by our common commitment to democracy and pluralism. A decision in principle has been taken to hold the next India-Nordic summit later this year. I'm not in a position to provide further details at this stage

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
A question from Shankar from India Vs Disinformation, "Whether terrorism was on the agenda for talks between the two countries?”

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Both leaders recognize the threat from terrorism and extremism. Prime Minister Modi, as I have already mentioned, expressed his concern and condolences over the violent attack in Sweden on the third of March and wished speedy recovery to those injured in the attack.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sir, there's a question from Huma from the Financial Express. "India has in January unveiled its draft Arctic Policy. Sweden is one of the core members of the Arctic Council. Did the two leaders talk about how India can be more involved in the region?”

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Yes, certainly Arctic is one of the important elements of the India Swedish partnership. India as you know, received Observer Status of the Arctic Council during the chairmanship of Sweden between 2011 and 2013. The Joint Statement, once you get to see it, you will notice, it has a strong paragraph on Polar Research Arctic Council, I will read it out. The Prime Ministers welcome the progress made in identifying specific areas of scientific collaboration in Polar Research, such as joint research projects and participation in polar expeditions. The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, India, and the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat will take this collaboration forward. They agreed further to intensify their collaboration within the framework of the Arctic Council to address global environment protection and combating climate change. So yes, the Arctic Council remains a very, very important area for joint collaboration between India and Sweden.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Another question from Huma. "Did space cooperation feature in the talks?”

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Yes, the two leaders encouraged Indian and Swedish space actors to identify specific areas for future collaboration and seek mutually beneficial partnerships between both public and private sector organizations working in the space field.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Elizabeth from the Live Mint wants to know, "Was there any discussion on 5G Technologies during the summit? Could you give us an idea of what was discussed? Did Sweden express interest in helping India upgrade its telecom infrastructure?”

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): No, 5G was not specifically discussed. But digital infrastructure is one of the potential areas of cooperation.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I don't have any further questions sir. So this would conclude the special briefing. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you, ma’am and we will reconvene shortly with the virtual weekly briefing. Thank you.

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Thank you.

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