Environment & energy, International relations | South Asia

20 January 2022

India’s new Green Strategic Partnership with Denmark is helping to build a more sustainable relationship between the two countries, Jeevethan Selvachandran writes.

At a virtual summit on 28 September 2020, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially announced a Green Strategic Partnership between the two countries, with the aim of expanding cooperation in renewable energy, environmental policy, trade, climate policy, and science and technology. By 9 October 2021, Prime Minister Frederiksen arrived in India on a three-day state visit to accelerate the ambitious partnership.

So how will the prime minister’s visit, and the Green Strategic Partnership more broadly, affect India-Denmark bilateral relations?

Symbolically, it marked the first summit-level meeting in India since COVID-19 restrictions were imposed, and her visit was the climax of a series of bilateral ministerial visits over the previous few months.

In a joint press conference, Prime Minister Frederiksen stated that both Denmark and India are democratic nations that believe in a ’rule-based international system’ and, particularly, a greener world.

While thanking his Danish counterpart, Prime Minister Modi welcomed Denmark as its first non-tropical member of the India-based International Solar Alliance that aims to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

More on this: India’s road to a sustainable energy future

During the talks, Denmark confirmed its support for India’s candidacy for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council, and India acknowledged Denmark’s candidacy for non-permanent membership in the Council for the period of 2025-2026.

Clearly, the Green Strategic Partnership is more than just a set of sustainable development plans.

Both parties agreed to expand existing partnerships into the health and agricultural sectors, as well as signing four government-to-government agreements that will contribute to deepening of cooperation in areas of water, science and technology, and climate change as part of a five-year Joint Action Plan.

India and Denmark already have strong trade and investment ties, with more than 200 Danish companies present in India and over 60 Indian companies present in Denmark, but the Partnership is broadening and deepening the India-Denmark relationship, especially in sustainable development.

The Danish Prime Minister also urged India to play an active role in global supply chains, since the pandemic has caused major hurdle meaning that the world can’t solely rely on “one country” – alluding to China – when it comes to supply chains.

More on this: Building a resilient and sustainable future

While the summit covered a wide array of issues, the Green Strategic Partnership remains the central new agreement in this budding bilateral relationship, and if such partnershps were to proliferate around the region, sustainablity would surely benefit.

The visit of Prime Minister Frederiksen also had political overtones – there is no denying the importance of a first state visit to India by a Danish head of government since 2008.

Historically, the relationship between these countries has actually been somewhat tense, in particular thanks fo the saga of a Danish citizen being accused of a massive arms drop in Purulia, West Bengal in 1995.

Since then, India repeatedly tried to get him extradited, and even came close, until the Danish Supreme Court stayed the order – claiming there was a risk of him being tortured in India – in 2011.

This triggered a diplomatic crisis between two countries which hammered economic relations, but since then, there have been joint diplomatic engagements leading to improved terms between the two countries – culminating with the Green Strategic Partnership.

Although that case is still pending, it seems that India has been willing understand that neither the Danish government nor its politicians are responsible for this, given it was decided by the Danish courts, and has been willing to engage with the country for the sake of a ’greener’ partnership. This understanding has created space and goodwill in which the relationship has been able to flourish.

The Green Strategic Partnership is a chance for India to accelerate its partnership with Denmark and broaden it to cooperation in other areas, as the Prime Minister Frederiksen’s visit shows.

In all, the partnership has the potential to be ground-breaking for India and the region. For now, Denmark is the only nation with whom India has a Green Strategic Partnership, but exciting times await for sustainable development if India sees this as a precedent for striking similar agreements with other partners in the region and beyond.

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