A recent meeting of top Norwegian diplomats in Delhi — with a focus on the regional impact of PM Narendra Modi’s electoral win — reflects Oslo’s increased focus on South Asia, according to top Norwegian sources.
HT has learnt that at the end of September, Norwegian ambassadors based in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal met to discuss ways to deepen Norway’s relationship with the region, and its prospects.
In an exclusive conversation, a Norwegian ambassador present at the meeting told HT, “We discussed at length the impact of Narendra Modi’s win in India on the regional dynamics. We shared our internal assessments of the situation in the respective countries in which we are stationed.” He added they had also explored the possibility of regional integration in South Asia. “We thought about Norway’s approach if integration and connectivity deepens in the region, and how to improve coordination amongst ourselves too.”
While regional consultations among ambassadors of a particular country are a regular diplomatic practice, Norwegian sources said such a meeting was not a usual feature in South Asia.
Norway has ‘trade and economic’ interests in India, said the official source. Its investments in India are around $10 billion; 90 Norwegian companies are established here and in the first six months of 2014, the Norwegian embassy issued almost 10% more business visas for Indian citizens than in 2013.
Norway supported India in becoming a member of the Arctic Council in 2013, and has supported programmes on higher education and research.
The source added, “We have gas and oil resources and Norway is sensitive to any development on the energy front globally — of which India is an important element in
Oslo has been, in the past, engaged with the Sri Lankan peace process as a direct mediator between Colombo and the LTTE. It has also supported the Nepali peace process.
Incidentally, the meeting happened days before a body nominated by the Norwegian Parliament decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Indian and Pakistani activists. The award is likely to bring further warmth to the relationship.