Sweden is one of the few countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that is wary of accepting an India-specific waiver to allow India access to nuclear fuel and technology for its civilian power sector. Sweden is also among the few countries that has not supported India's claim for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council.
Despite that, Sweden's Deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson, who is the first member of the current Swedish government to travel to Asia, chose India as her first destination. Why? In an exclusive interview with the Hindustan Times, she talked about the importance her government attaches to India, trade ties between the two countries and the Mahatma's relevance in today's world.
You have come for the Satyagraha conference. What is Mahatma Gandhi's most important message?
The most important message is peace. Gandhi's message gives a hope to the future that dialogue, not war, is a solution. His 'bottom up' solution, based on respect for each individual human being, is important. In the rapidly globalising world, there is a tendency to impose solutions 'top down'.
Sweden is seen as one of the few that is against India's quest for nuclear energy. Why?
We do understand why India has to discuss the energy issue. But there are regulations common to all. Within our government, we are discussing whether we should let the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty work globally, or make an exception for India. Sweden does not think India has broken rules. But a lot of countries, like Sweden, are promoting multilateral solutions.
Are you in favour of India's entry as a permanent member of the UNSC?
Sweden has not said anything specific about that. Sweden wants to see a stronger, expanded UN Security Council, with greater representation from Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is important that there is greater world representation, not necessarily just one or two new members. But the UN must also become more efficient…more active in helping solve genuine problems like hunger and war.
You said this was your first New Year in Sweden without snowfall. Is climate change one of the topics you will discuss here?
Certainly. I am very worried about what is happening. But I see that there is increasing awareness. For our Indian partners, we have shown that we can raise GDP levels while reducing energy consumption.