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Transcript of Special Virtual Briefing on the State Visit of the Prime Minister of Denmark to India by Secretary (West)

October 09, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Namaskar and a very good evening to all of you. Thank you very much for joining us for this special media briefing on the occasion of the state visit of the Prime Minister of Denmark, Her Excellency, Miss Mette Frederiksen, who is currently in India. We've had a very intensive round of meetings throughout the day, and her visit will continue for two more days till Monday. Meanwhile, we have the pleasure of having with us here today, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Mrs. Reenat Sandhu, who will give us a overview of what happened. We are also joined here by Joint secretary of the Central Europe division, Miss Neeta Bhushan and then we will take a few questions that have come in. To begin the proceedings may I now request Secretary Ma'am, to make opening remarks and then we will try to take some of the questions. Ma'am, over to you.

Smt. Reenat Sandhu, Secretary (West)
: Thank you Arindam. Good evening everyone, as you are all aware, Prime Minister of Denmark Her Excellency, Miss Mette Frederiksen is on a state visit to India. This is the first visit by a head of government to India following the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a reflection of our close and friendly ties with Denmark. This is also the Prime Minister's first visit to India. She is accompanied by a high level official and business delegation. In today's engagements apart from bilateral talks with the Honourable Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of Denmark also called on honourable Rashtrapati Ji. In the morning EAM also called on PM Frederiksen.

The two prime ministers had held a virtual summit in September last year 2020, during which our bilateral relations were elevated to a green strategic partnership. This is a very unique partnership that is focused on collaboration to promote green and sustainable growth. The two prime ministers had a very fruitful and productive meeting today, which demonstrated our close and friendly relations. Today's meeting provided an opportunity to both prime ministers to review the progress made on this partnership. The Danish PM noted that our bilateral partnership is an example where two very different countries in terms of size, geographies and histories can come together and work on solutions to address global challenges.

Denmark is a world leader in several green technologies and sustainable solutions. There are over 200 Danish companies that are present in India, many of these are actively involved in taking forward key national missions of India like "Making in India for the world”, many of them are manufacturing in India and even exporting abroad. Jal Jeevan mission where they are providing solutions for water supply and distribution, smart cities, Digital India, clean India, Namami Gange, etc. Denmark became the first country outside the tropics to ratify the international solar Reliance framework in May this year. And in a similar vein, we have around 60 Indian companies that are working in Denmark primarily in the area of ICT and today Prime Minister Frederiksen noted that they would welcome more Indian companies to come in Denmark and explore the opportunities there.

For the implementation of the green strategic partnership, a joint action plan for five years has been agreed. During today's meeting, Prime Minister Frederiksen conveyed to our Honourable Prime Minister that she was deeply impressed by the ambitious targets set by India for supply of household water, renewable energy and for combating climate change and the way India has been achieving many of these targets. She also praised India's vaccination drive and mentioned that the numbers and the scale on which the vaccination campaign was conducted was truly remarkable.

The two prime ministers noted that if Denmark's skill and India's scale is combined with scope, speed, and sustainability, it can be a good example for others to emulate. It is a unique partnership as I mentioned, and both prime ministers noted that it is unique not only bilaterally but also at a global level. Honourable Prime Minister praised Prime Minister Frederiksen for her leadership in promoting the green growth and green technologies and he also thanked Denmark for their support during the second wave of COVID-19 in India.

Besides the existing areas of where cooperation is ongoing with Denmark, and these include a whole diverse range of sectors like, as I mentioned renewable energy, including wind and solar, water, shipping and ports, infrastructure, circular economy and health. Honourable Prime Minister proposed expanding cooperation in areas like Smart Water Resource Management, waste to best that is how from waste we can create best resources and ways to manage efficient supply chains. He also proposed expanding cooperation in the field of agricultural technologies, such as food safety, cold chains, food processing, fertilisers, Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The two leaders also discussed regional and global developments, including the Indo Pacific and the situation in Afghanistan. Both leaders expressed their commitment to continuing support to the Afghan people, while underlining the need for inclusivity in Afghanistan, counterterrorism guarantees and respect for human rights in particular women's rights.

The two Prime Ministers welcome the decision to resume the India EU FTA negotiations and express the hope that they will be concluded at an early date. Prime Minister thanked Prime Minister Frederiksen for her invitation to visit Copenhagen for the second India Nordic summit in 2022 and conveyed that he looked forward to visiting at an early date. Four government to government MOUs and agreements were also exchanged in the presence of both the Prime Ministers; three commercial agreements were also announced.

Later during the afternoon, there was a meeting between Prime Minister Frederiksen and honourable Rashtrapati Ji. Rashtrapati Ji extended an invitation to Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II to visit India next year. And Prime Minister Frederiksen in return invited Rashtrapati Ji to visit Denmark next year. Their discussions were warm and cordial and focused on again the green strategic partnership which is a very important sort of highlight of our bilateral relationship. Opportunities for business, trade and investment and the strong people to people ties that exist between our two countries and the cultural cooperation, which is another important linkage that binds India and Denmark. So with that, I'll hand over to Arindam.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you ma’am for a comprehensive overview of what happened during the day today. We have of course a number of questions, a lot of interest in this visit which is taking place, the first one after COVID, halted our visits last February. Expectedly the bilateral elements of the visit have attracted a lot of attention. So let me try to put some of these questions together in interest of time. Huma from Financial Express would like to know, "whether the two countries identified new sectors for expanding bilateral relations?” Meghna from Doordarshan, asked "what is the major focus of this joint Letter of Intent between the Ministry of Skill Development and entrepreneurship and the Government of Denmark?” Ranjana from UNI, "recalls the EAM visit to Copenhagen in September. India and Denmark added an 11th working group on health and that was during that joint commission meeting, have any new working groups been added today after the summit talks? And what is the focus of work on the working group on health?” Meghna also has another query regarding city to city cooperation between the two countries, "whether this was discussed or any more cities included?” And of course, we have Ranjeet from Rakshak news, "wanting to know whether any specific discussion or agreement on promoting labour mobility between India and Denmark?”

Smt. Reenat Sandhu, Secretary (West): Thank you. Well, on the bilateral side, as I explained in my opening remarks, the green strategic partnership was understandably the main focus of discussions. This partnership was launched last year during the virtual summit. And this is an area where there are tremendous synergies and complementarities between India and Denmark, given the technologies, that energy efficient and green technologies that Danish companies have and the scale at which these can then be utilised for the benefit of the people here in India. So this is a very important aspect of our partnership. And we have agreed on a five-year action plan for 2021-26, which outlines in great detail on how this green strategic partnership will be implemented. In fact, all the agreements that were exchanged today, are focus on this element of our partnership. And I will like to briefly mention these agreements here. There are two agreements that were signed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, one on groundwater mapping, and the other is on traditional knowledge Digital Library access. There is a joint letter of intent, I think there's a question on skill development. So, that has also been exchanged today, given the importance of skills in our bilateral relationship and the fact that there are a large number of Danish companies that are present and manufacturing in India and contributing to skill development of the workforce here, this will take forward our cooperation and capacity building and skill development.

There is also an MOU that was signed by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and Danfoss on establishing a Centre of Excellence for, again, addressing the climate change. And then there were three commercial agreements, which was at the B2B level. But again, these were all addressed to either setting up Centres of Excellence for sustainable solutions, or bringing new technologies in this for the benefit of this partnership. There is also an MOU that was signed by ORF with the state of green, it’s a agreement between the two think tanks to promote greater research on the green transition and knowledge sharing aspect. Now, there are, you know a number of areas where Denmark and India are working together. I think one of the questions you mentioned was on labour mobility. Now we have a joint working group with Denmark on labour mobility and perhaps one of the few EU countries with whom we have an ongoing dialogue on this. There are a large number of Indian professionals, Doctors, engineers, IT experts who are working in Denmark and today the Danish Prime Minister also welcomed more companies to come to Denmark and this is something that is welcomed by them.

There is the other part that you mentioned, health, I think somebody asked on health. So on health, just last month an MOU on health cooperation was signed, andjust two days back, the first meeting of the joint working group on health was held. And this highlights areas where the two countries can work together like anti-microbial research and etc. So there is a lot of research that is going on between the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology with Danish Institutes. And this working group would help to promote greater cooperation in that side.

Then you mentioned city to city collaboration. In the area of smart cities, we have two sistercity arrangements. One is with Udaipur and city in Denmark and the other is with the city Tumakuru in Karnataka, again with the counterpart city in Denmark. In addition, there is urban living lab that has been set up in Goa, which is like a sort of, living sort of demonstration of what can be done in terms of smart city solutions, and which can be replicated in terms of knowledge sharing and capacity building. So there is work going on in that sector as well. So I've covered I think all that.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Yes, ma’am. Thank you ma'am. Moving on to of course, you address the green partnership, which is a key element of the relationship. There are some specific questions related to that and perhaps linking to climate change. I just read out some of them.Huma asking from Financial Express, "under the green partnership, how are the two sides planning to work, I suppose towards climate change or addressing climate change?”, Sidhant from WION wants to know, "what practical outcomes were agreed to by the two sides on the green strategic partnership?”, Meghna from Doordarshan has a couple of questions saying, "any discussion on upcoming COP26 at Glasgow, what are the details of that? Also any talks on transfer of technology best practices in the sector of renewables? And also we have a slightly indirect question on did we discuss the Arctic Circle? And is India you know, being part of it?” so ma’am, you already answer part of it perhaps in the climate change element.

Smt. Reenat Sandhu, Secretary (West): Right. So I'll just like to add that, you know, climate change is an area which is of common concern and interest to both India and Denmark where we feel that we can work together. PM Frederiksen appreciated, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, also the ambitious targets that have been set by India and the way we are working to achieve these targets. Denmark has also committed to increase climate financing and they have said that they will contribute more than 1% of the 100 billion dollar per annum commitment made under the Paris Agreement. Prime Minister Frederiksen, in fact called our PM’s leadership inspirational in the area of climate change and there was considerable amount of discussion on how the two countries can work together in this area.

On the green strategic partnership, well, there are a lot of activities that are going on. So for example, there is a discussion going on to set up offshore wind parks, wind energy parks, and there is a centre of excellence on offshore wind energy that was launched last month, when the Minister of Energy and Climate of Denmark had visited India so jointly at that time, our minister of new and renewable energy and their minister had launched this centre of excellence on offshore wind energy. Similarly, in the area of solar, there is a lot of work going on. As I mentioned, Denmark has ratified the ISA and was the first country outside the tropics to do so.Some of their companies are contributing to manufacturing products that are used in the solar energy sector. And there is also joint research and collaboration going on in that.Water is a very important area of cooperation where Danish, the Environment Protection Agency, some of their institutes and companies are collaborating with the Jal Jeevan mission to promote clean water and water solutions for India.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. And I presume there was no direct discussion on the Arctic issue.

Smt. Reenat Sandhu, Secretary (West): Well Artic is again, a very important area where we feel that India and Denmark can work together, because Denmark being located in the region, India being an observer to the Arctic Council. So in terms of research, Polar Research or deep sea drilling, etc., this area is very rich in resources. So, there are complementarities, there are areas we can work together. And it is also in a way related to our climate change goals, because what happens there directly impacts the climate as well. So going forward, yes it has been identified as an area of priority.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:Thank you ma’am. Before we move on to regional issues, ma’am perhaps one issue that a lot of people are interested is the issue of Kim Davy. We've got a number of questions on that. I'll just highlight some of them. Gautam Lahiri would like to know, "whether extradition of Kim Davy was discussed and what is the reaction of Danish side? Does Danish government agreed to appear in the supreme court where appeal of India against lower court is pending since long?”, Suhasini from the Hindu asked, "whether PM raised the issue of Kim Davy pending extradition and whether any time bound assurances had been sought?”, Sidhant from WION wants to know, "whether Kim Davy issue was raised by the Indian side during the talks?” and similar questions from Srinjoy from Rimes Now, and Neeraj from News 18India.

Smt. Reenat Sandhu, Secretary (West): So, you know, I would just say that this matter was raised and we have an understanding that the legal process must go forward and both countries are working on it.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:Thank you, ma'am. Moving on to regional issues, ma'am, of course, Afghanistan is always an area of interest. And we've got some queries on that. Sidhant from WION would like to know, "what were the conversations like on Afghanistan between the two sides, was recognition of Taliban government discussed, what was Denmark's view?” And actually had another question, but on the similar lines.

Smt. Reenat Sandhu, Secretary (West): So Prime Minister briefed the Danish PM on developments in our region, including Afghanistan, and the Danish side echoed India's concerns about the situation in Afghanistan, and the risks of terrorism that are emanating from there. Both sides share similar views on the protection of human rights of people in Afghanistan, including women and minorities, the need to allow people to move freely and to leave the country, the importance of having an inclusive government in Afghanistan, and to prevent terrorism. Both leaders reiterated that global community should continue to have a collective approach to Afghanistan.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, ma'am. Moving on to another regional issue, of course is the Indo Pacific, Sidhant again, from WION asks, "was Indo Pacific mentioned, what was Denmark's views on it?”

Smt. Reenat Sandhu, Secretary (West): So as you all know, that recently the EU has announced its Indo Pacific strategy that we have welcomed. The prime minister of Denmark emphasise the importance of this strategy and the importance of working with partners in the region, especially with India, which they consider to be an important partner in the Indo Pacific given that we have a lot of convergences in terms of our views and our values, and also, you know, our commitment to ensuring a free open and inclusive Indo Pacific, we feel that this is an area of convergence where the two countries can work together.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, ma'am. Ma'am, of course, we've done most of the questions, a couple of questions specific we had discussed a bit about it. Suhasini from the Hindu would like to know, "this is regarding COVID and vaccines more than a year after the India South Africa proposal at WTO of patent waiver in WTO on COVID medication and vaccines, have any European countries offered support? Did this issue come up for discussion?” They would like to know on that.

Smt. Reenat Sandhu, Secretary (West): Well, we know that COVID is a very major concern for the global community. And so understandably, this issue of how both the countries are tackling COVID-19 and our concerns about it did come up for discussion. Both the Prime Ministers, they exchange views with regard to the developments on the COVID-19 pandemicand they agreed on the need to establish globally beneficial vaccine partnerships, building in particular on India's strong position in vaccine production, and its support to ensure vaccine availability to those in need across the globe. As I mentioned, I think in my remarks before also, Prime Minister Frederiksen was very appreciative of India's vaccine drive. And she, in fact several times she mentioned how impressive the vaccine numbers were in India, especially, you know, vaccinating 25 million people in a day, which is five times the population of Denmark. So yes, COVID 19 was an important area of discussion in today's meeting.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: And on the WTOof course, nothing specific, but ma’am as you know, we are still working on that.

Smt. Reenat Sandhu, Secretary (West):Yes, we remain engaged with our partners on thatand well it's taking its course.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Ma'am, the last set of questions actually, you touched upon this in your statement is on in the Nordic summit. Sidhant from WION wants to know, "whether any discussion on the Indian Nordic summit was there since Denmark would be hosting next year's summit?”, and Huma wants to know, "when is the India Nordic summit taking place?” You did answer it, but perhaps I'll let you close with that ma’am.

Smt. Reenat Sandhu, Secretary (West): Okay. Well, as I mentioned, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen, she has invited our Prime Minister to attend the second Indo Nordic summit in Copenhagen next year.The first India Nordic summit was held in 2018in Sweden, which our Prime Minister had attended, which reflected the importance that we attach to our relations and our cooperation with all the five Nordic countries. And we had planned to have this meeting earlier but due to COVID, it couldn't happen. So we are hopeful that we will be able to find mutually convenient dates in 2022and this summit will take place.The Prime Minister accepted the invitation of Prime Minister Frederiksenfor you know, he thanked us for offering to host the summit and accepted the invitation to visit Copenhagen next year.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Offical Spokesperson: Ma’am, thank you that covers the set of questions. I wanted to especially thank you for presence. I know you've been busy, entire day with the delegations. Appreciate your presence here, ma'am. Also, thanks to Neeta Bhushan, Joint Secretary (CE) for being here with us. I think that was a good and a comprehensive review and took all the questions regarding this very important state visit that is taking place. I wanted to mention that we will be shortly sharing the documents from the visit which include the joint statement and some more details about the documents that have been exchanged today as well as perhaps some kind of press release, you've seen some of these have been coming out. Please stay tuned in with our social media as well as other outlets. And thank you again for joining us this evening. Namaskar.

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