NEW DELHI: India and Norway have important roles to play in global peace and security, says Norwegian ambassador to India, Hans Jacob Frydenlund. In an interview, he talks about areas the countries can work on in order to make a difference.
How have Norway-India relations been affected by the pandemic? Are there lessons it has taught?
Despite the pandemic, bilateral commitments continue to strengthen. We had frequent political contact virtually. Joint projects have continued as far as possible. Particularly in our Ocean Dialogue, we made substantial progress. As elected members of the UN Security Council, we have seen new avenues for collaboration open up in the area of peace and security. Although the lesson is not new, the pandemic has reminded us that partnerships are key to tackle global challenges. At the national level, the Norwegian government, business and citizen groups mobilized to support the Indian emergency efforts to tackle the COVID response during the second wave. Norway and India have had important roles in the global pandemic response, where India has held a key role as vaccine producer. Norway has contributed as co-chair of the Facilitation Council for the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator and major donor to the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access initiative.
Given that the situation is improving in India, are there plans to resume tourist visas for Indians?
Health authorities in Norway are evaluating the situation and considering further opening for travel. Students with permits are allowed to enter Norway through the month of August. Family members reuniting with residents in Norway (family immigration permits) and essential workers are allowed. Short-term travel is currently allowed in special situations.
Recently, Indian Oil Corporation built India’s first green hydrogen plant with the help of a Norwegian company. Are there plans to build more plants?
Norway has many years of industrial experience across the entire hydrogen value chain and the Norwegian government has developed a Hydrogen Strategy with the aim of further developing and scaling new low emission technologies and solutions. We need to grasp the opportunities available to make a complete green transition and hydrogen has a significant potential for reducing local and global emissions. Hydrogen will be a key component for India’s vision to have 450 GW capacity of renewable energy by 2030, and we are pleased to note that the Indian government has announced a National Hydrogen Mission to support this green shift. We are happy to see the statement of intent between Norway’s Greenstat and Indian Oil for a new centre for excellence.
Earlier this month, Norway’s foreign minister presented the country’s new strategy for promotion of freedom of expression. India, of late, has been criticized over some aspects pertaining to curtailment of this freedom. Have you taken up the issue with Indian authorities?
Norway is strongly committed towards freedom of expression as a fundamental human right and as a cornerstone of a vibrant democracy. This, again, we see as essential for fostering inclusive and sustainable development. We hope other countries, including India, will be interested in our approach, as laid out in the strategy.
What are the areas, apart from the ones already existing, that Norway and India can collaborate in? Any new sector?
Norway and India are major ocean states. We place huge emphasis on our Ocean Dialogue with India. There is a lot of potential for advancing further the cooperation with India on sustainable use of the oceans, green shipping and ship recycling, integrated ocean management and research. In the UN Security Council, maritime security is an example of a shared concern and potential area of collaboration.