India-Denmark Green Strategic Partnership can inspire the world

His Excellency Freddy Svane, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark to India firmly believes that “there is no lasting solution to the global challenges that we (as a planet) can imagine without India”. Through the Green Strategic Partnership Denmark is eager to bring in data, skills, technologies, best practices and experiences to India. However, he clarifies that Denmark is not here to teach nor to preach, rather, it aims to inspire India through what it has done in areas like water conservation and clean energy.

On the other hand, he acknowledges the progress made by India in areas like digitization and UPI, thereby bringing scalable and affordable technologies for global challenges.

TPCI_Freddy Svane

India Business & Trade: India and Denmark are having a higher degree of engagements at regular intervals. Prime Ministerial engagements have taken place in 2018 at the 1st India-Nordic Summit in Stockholm; 2019 – visit of Danish PM for Vibrant Gujarat; 2020 – virtual summit leading to launch of Green Strategic Partnership; 2021 – Danish PM Ms. Mette Fredriksen’s visit to India, and 2022 – visit of PM Narendra Modi to Copenhagen for the 2nd India-Nordic Summit.  In 2023, the Danish Crown Prince Fredrik and Princess Mary visited India. So with this higher tempo of engagements, where do you see this relationship taking us in the next 5 years?

HE Ambassador Freddy Svane: Denmark and India have found a common track leading towards greening of the future. The Green Strategic Partnership is about really bringing data, skills, technologies, best practices, experiences to India. And then it’s for India to take benefit from it.

We are not here to teach nor to preach, rather, we are inspiring India through what we have done. The green strategic partnership has four major tracks. There are a number of other tracks. We have a high focus on water, energy, and climate financing, green financing. The Green Strategic Partnership sets out the framework for the green transition of India.

Crown Prince of Denmark with President of India

Their Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark called on the President of India, Smt Droupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan during their visit to India in February this year

So we look into a very close, very future-oriented, action-oriented collaboration in the years ahead with the very high ambitions of this present government. We are ready to contribute in whatever way we can to ensure that India has sufficient energy, sufficient food, sufficient and effective use of water reserves, etc.

India Business & Trade: What are the core areas of synergy driving this close relationship between the two countries?

HE Ambassador Freddy Svane: Basically, we see no limits to our cooperation, which is based on the five S’s – scale, skills, scope, speed and sustainability. The scale of India is not how many people you are out here, but it’s the leashed and unleashed capabilities that this nation has and has shown already.

Digitization is an example, which is really a big, big mover out here. From Denmark’s perspective, we bring the skills to the table – the technologies from Denmark, the way in which we have built up our society, how we decoupled our economy from the green transition, energy consumption, the CO2 footprint, etc. So we think we have a model that could inspire India.

Then, we have the speed as well, because we realize the need to work fast. It is important to realize that we are really lagging substantially behind in our Sustainable Development Goals, in view of the vision for 2030 (referring to climate action). So we have to really focus on how we accelerate our joint efforts.

It’s so important for all of us to ensure that whatever Denmark and India do should not just benefit us, but be inspirational to the world. We saw in the recent G20 summit and the Delhi Declaration how this is happening, when the African Union was invited to join the G20 group. It was indeed a strong show of solidarity with the Global South.

And then finally we have sustainability. It goes without saying that we can’t just continue the traditional trajectory of growth. You need to have a sustainability in place, whether it’s water, energy, food or whether it’s the way in which you, me and others are living. How do we live with the fact that temperatures are increasing day by day? We see alarming patterns to the climate that we have never seen before. So we have to take individual responsibility.

And then I think we will soon add the next ‘S’, which is science. It encompasses innovation, but also a reflection how to utilize the smart people, the brainy people to develop new & innovative technologies, new ways of organizing our life, our livelihood, and the whole planet. And make no mistake, we are moving faster and faster, day by day in our collaboration with the Indian side.

India Business & Trade: You have spoken about India having the scale and Denmark having the skills. So how can this foster the trade and economic relationship between the two countries?

HE Ambassador Freddy Svane: I agree with you that India should ideally foster more trade. But trade cannot be measured bilaterally. We have many Danish companies selling products and technology to India that comes from different countries. So if they are exporting something to India for the wind turbines and it comes from Singapore, then it would be part of the bilateral trade between Singapore and India.

As a personal view, of course, trade and investments are extremely important. But I also think we should be more ambitious than just to look into statistics of export and import of goods and services. What we have to do is really to secure the planet’s future. Whether we sell for US$ 3 billion or US$ 5 billion is of lesser importance.

Not that it’s not important, of course, because it generates jobs and incomes and fosters innovation. But in a more ambitious way, I think we have to focus on how we really put to use whatever expertise & scale we have.

Take your own country as an example. How did you cope with COVID? India’s COWIN platform is unique, considering how it leveraged digitization to counter the pandemic. And it is also indicative of how India is going to use it even more in the future for its developmental objectives. Digitization is definitely one of the most important assets for the world, but fostered by India. So, of course, that should ideally also lead to more trade, more investments.

Consider the UPI payment system. How many transactions are happening every second? I was out on a Saturday morning very early and met some Indian friends. We were out walking and stopped for coconut water. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the vendor, had a PayTM QR code. I wouldn’t have seen that 3-5 years back.

India Business & Trade: You spoke of green financing. Could you please elaborate on this area, considering its importance?

HE Ambassador Freddy Svane: When it comes to financing, back in 2009, Denmark hosted the CoP 15 for climate discussions. At that time, the developed world to which we belong, came up with the commitment of investing US$ 100 billion per year to developing countries for tackling climate change. Did we ever deliver on that? No. We are perhaps coming to this year or these years, but it shows that you have to stay with your commitments.

In discussions between the two Prime Ministers, also committed to set up a special kind of facility under what we call IFU (Investment Fund for Developing Countries), which is a kind of state-owned agency to promote sustainable growth and so forth. They have put up this special facility for India, which means that through it we can finance different activities.

Water as an example. Statistics reveal that around 18% of the land masses of this planet is India, whereas the country accounts for around 4% of water resources. So there’s a mismatch between how much land you are covering and how much of global water resources you have access to

But the point here is – how can you use Danish skills to secure both increased awareness, how to use water properly? You have the Jal Jeevan Mission where Denmark is the partner country. We are supporting a number of activities in districts in four states Rajasthan, Assam, Tamil Nadu and UP. And the whole idea is to bring our technologies in Denmark.

Non-revenue water, which is water being pumped into the distribution system, and not being accounted for, is typically around 4-6% of supply. In India, it’s hard to find any place where it’s less than 50%. One way could be to install smart meters to ensure that people are paying for the cost of water and not plundering this gift of Mother Earth. You need to put a price to water so that people realize its importance. We are also part of activities to identify aquifiers, meaning so you can detect where you can find water resources if you want to explore or exploit that. And that can be done in a very easy way.

Therefore, this kind of green financing is so important, as is fostering increased investments from the private sector. A few weeks ago, I launched a ‘Yatra’ involving a truck that now is crisscrossing India. We have put up on display a number of pumps that can run on solar, wind, hybrid, etc. And that will also teach people, really give them lessons about how to protect water resources. We try to keep it not as high tech, because high tech is not necessarily the way out for regions like India or Africa.

India Business & Trade: Indeed, technology transfer forms an important component of this process as well. The developed world has the technology, but it doesn’t reach needy countries. If one member of the family has the technology and the other doesn’t, it will not lead to a sustainable planet. So what are your thoughts on this?

HE Ambassador Freddy Svane: Yes, it is not only thoughts, but also how we take good thoughts, necessary thoughts or interactions to countries like India. When the Honorable Prime Minister of India paid a visit to Denmark, we had an exchange of agreements between Indian companies and Danish companies. And one of these was how to assist and inspire the Indian cement industry.

Indian PM at Indo-Danish Business Forum 2022_TPCI

Indian PM Shri Narendra Modi and the Danish PM, Ms. Mette Frederiksen at the India-Denmark Partnership Forum, 2022

We know that the cement sector is a very high contributor to CO2 emissions. How do we develop technologies and practices towards green cement? Danish companies like FLSmidth are a part of that. How do we go green and bring circular economy into the picture? We encourage our companies to find Indian counterparts.

For instance, Reliance Industries has an agreement with a group called Stiesdal – a small but high-tech company. Its owner holds the highest number of patents within the wind industry. He has developed a lot of different technologies for electrolyzers. If we dream about green hydrogen, we need a lot of renewable power. And then we need electrolyzers that can really transform the energy, into green hydrogen, green ammonium or whatever it is.

Then, of course, we have a Center of Excellence for Offshore Wind and that is embedded within MNRE. Offshore wind is presently not being harnessed in the Indian context.

So we are bringing our technologies and practices and soon you will see a reliable power outlook coming out. We have an advisor who is helping out with developing a reliable power outlook for India. By 2040, India will have to triple or quadruple its energy production to meet the needs of its people. The base load of today is 60% coal. Is that the way forward? No. It’s destroying the planet, nature and the life or livelihood of people. We are collaborating with the Indian government in this area.

The G20 Declaration, Delhi Declaration is talking about tripling of renewable energy by 2030. It’s just around the corner. And therefore we have to bring in all our proven technologies doing it and that we do through this kind of outbreaks.

India Business & Trade: What are the areas of focus for Danish companies in India presently?

HE Ambassador Freddy Svane: We are very much guided by the Green Strategic Partnership, Water and Energy are two very important fields where we have a lot of Danish companies. Overall, we have 200 or so companies. Maritime logistics is another key area of interest. Maersk, the shipping company, operates in India through its affiliate called APM Terminal. They run Pipavav Terminal in Gujarat and JNPT in Mumbai. And if you look into how much of the container trade that is coming in and through Pipavav, you will see that this terminal is really a lifeline.

Shipping is global and both India & Denmark are big players. But how do we green it? A couple of weeks ago, Maersk launched its first green fuel propelled container vessel and that will necessitate a lot of production of green methanol. India is obviously a place for that. And we are also looking into Odisha, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

We also have very strong global players within the pharma industry. Novo Nordisk, for instance was recently in the news, with its valuation far exceeding the GDP of Denmark. They are successful in developing drugs for fighting diabetes. And recently, they found out that one of their drugs Wegovy can be used for weight reduction.

Food is also important. We are putting up a Center of Excellence for dairy production in Himachal, where we are trying to inspire India how to get more mileage out of its milk production. India is the world’s largest milk producer, but the value addition is not really meeting the potential it could offer. We bring in experts that can help train Indian specialists in securing higher yield from cows, better quality butter, etc.

We are also into the marine industry. We have a delegation coming from parts of the Kingdom. There’s an India-Nordic Baltic Conclave in November, wherein we bring a delegation from the Faroe Islands. This is a small group of islands in the northern Atlantic. They are a big fishing nation with a lot of expertise with processing, fodder, etc.

These are some of the key areas of interest that Danish companies are exploring in India.

India Business & Trade: Over the past three, four years we see possibly a change in the way countries or companies look at India as an investment destination. How do you feel India’s importance as an economy, which has changed in the past few years? And for Denmark specifically, how important is India as an economic & trading partner?

HE Ambassador Freddy Svane: It is in our strongest strategic interest to have the strongest India that we can imagine. Why? It is both for geopolitical reasons and for the transformation of the way in which we are living. India has tremendous scalability and has shown how to develop affordable technologies. That’s something we do not have on our side in the Western world, where the presumption is that the higher the price or technology, the better it is.

In a nation like India, with 1.4 billion people, a lot of people can’t afford very sophisticated pumps if they come to, let’s say, to the price of one crore, just as an example. So you need India as a strong lab for de-featuring technologies and to make them more affordable. So in that context, there’s no lasting solution to the global challenges that we can imagine without India. India has to be the part of the future.

We also need India based on the very clear fact that India is a democracy like us. So it’s a good if the world’s largest democracy is part of our equation to secure that we have the right choices, based on people’s support.

Then you are by all standards the most populous nation and have to grow your economy. Now you’re the fifth largest economy. In these years India is posting growth rates that are far in excess of what other major powers can generate. It is an engine for the transformation of all economic activities because without India, we will not be able to deliver on the SDGs, or cope efficiently with climate change. So from all angles and views, India has to be strong.


HE Freddy Svane is the current Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark to India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives & Nepal. He entered the Danish Foreign Service in 1982, and was previously Ambassador to Japan during 2005-08 and 2015-19. He has also served as Ambassador, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (EU/EPA) in 2010 and CEO of the Danish Agricultural Council (2008-10). Views  expressed are personal. 

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