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Interaction With Norwegian Parliamentary Delegation

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  • September 10, 2008
    Round Table
    Only by Invitation

    A delegation of the International Committee of the Labour Party of Norway visited IDSA on September 10, 2008. The visiting delegation was headed by Mr. Olav Akselsen, Member and Speaker of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Parliament of Norway. The focus of the interactive session was India’s Foreign Policy, India’s stance on Climate Change and India’s relations with Africa.

    In his brief introduction, the Chair, Mr. Sujit Dutta, Senior Fellow, IDSA described the history of IDSA and its unique role in shaping the strategic, security and foreign policy discourse in India. Mr. Akselsen on his part gave a brief history of the Labour Party and presented an overview of Norwegian foreign policy, particularly its International Development programme. He said NATO is extremely important for Norwegian security. On global issues, Mr. Akselsen highlighted that global warming is a major Norwegian concern. Norway supports the Post-Kyoto agreement and looks forward to the outcome of the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change in May 2009. However, he also said that the richest countries must bear the maximum burden of global warming. In this regard, he suggested that an International Joint Mechanism Plan may be worked upon. On the reform of the United Nations, he mentioned that the UN and specifically the UN Security Council do not reflect the present reality and India must play a major role in the UN.

    Mr. Sujit Dutta gave a presentation on Indian foreign policy. He said that after the Cold War India’s foreign relations have been diversified and its foreign policy agenda has taken on board new issues such as energy, climate change, terrorism, UN reform, etc. He described the evolution of Indian foreign policy after the Cold War and depicted it as multi-directional. On the Indian neighbourhood, he said that most of the country’s neighbours have been going through political turmoil, be it Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. It is a serious challenge for Indian foreign policy makers and strategic community to actualise the goal of a stable neighbourhood. On India-China relations, he said that there are unresolved issues in the bilateral relations such as the Tibetan refugees in India, unresolved border and China’s role in the Indian neighbourhood. However, China has begun to take into account the rise of India and also wishes to engage India constructively in many areas.

    Dr. Arvind Gupta, the Lal Bahadur Shastri Chair at IDSA, dealt with the issue of India’s stance on Climate Change. He underscored that India aims at an inclusive growth pattern and follows the distributive model. As a developing country, India needs an annual growth of 8 to 10 per cent to pull its vast masses out of poverty. Sustained economic growth requires energy supplies at affordable prices. Therefore, India should not be equated with the industrialised nations. He also highlighted that India’s contribution to the global per capita carbon emission is the lowest and India’s energy efficiency is almost at par with rich countries like Germany. Dr. Gupta pointed out that India cannot accept legally binding emission cut quotas, but reiterated the commitment given by the Indian Prime Minister that the country’s per capita emission would never go beyond the per capita average emission of developed countries.

    Ms. Ruchita Beri, Research Officer at IDSA, provided a historical background of India’s relations with Africa. She informed the delegation that India’s relations with Africa dates back to the pre-independence years and the civil disobedience movement started by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa. Till date, African leaders like Sam Nujoma and Nelson Mandela remember and respect the Indian model of non-violence. At present, Ms. Beri, added, there is a two million-strong Indian Diaspora in the African continent and this contributes to the strong bonds between India and Africa. In recent years economic considerations have assumed high priority in India’s Africa policy. India’s relations with Africa are not exploitative, but based on mutual benefit and understanding. Energy is emerging as an important component of co-operation. India is trying its best to provide technical-economic assistance to African countries and build a mutually beneficial relationship. Developing human resources and other capacities in Africa, she concluded, is a focus of India’s foreign policy.

    Q & A Session

    Questions to Mr. Akselsen

    • What is the Norwegian position on South Ossetia and its perspective on the rearmament of Russia?
    • China is becoming an important player in international politics. What is the Norwegian take on the integration of China into the international system?
    • How does Norway see developments in the Caucasus regarding the US-EU sponsored Albanian Macedonian Bulgarian Oil (AMBO) pipeline? Is there a tension between Russia and Norway on this issue?

    Answers

    • Norway has been concerned about the recent developments in Russia. However, it believes in engaging Russia through institutions like the EU and NATO. South Ossetia dispute should be solved according to international law.
    • China is important for international development. While Norway is increasingly open towards fostering civil society tie ups, it is also working towards initiating a human rights dialogue with China.
    • Norway has better technology than Russia to explore oil in the Arctic and other offshore areas.

    Questions to IDSA panellists

    • What is the Indian position on WTO trade negotiations and the possibility of future agreements?
    • There have been a lot of talk in the Western media on the resistance of the South to the linkage of labour standards and the social clause with trade issues in the WTO. What is the Indian stand?
    • India’s policy in Myanmar has been criticised for its pro-active diplomacy. What is the Indian policy?
    • Would the general elections in 2009 in any way affect the broad contours of Indian foreign policy?

    Answers

    • The issue concerning India in WTO essentially revolves around questions regarding agricultural subsidies. India needs the world market for exports, and if agriculture is subsidised in the West, it is detrimental to the interests of developing countries. A working solution towards opening world markets must be worked upon.
    • The social clause issue is important to India because of the growing concerns on child labour issues, which is linked to the livelihood of millions. India’s policy shifts are contingent upon internal constraints, which are distinct to developing countries.
    • Though the government is implementing progressive policies like providing training and education, developed countries should understand that the labour realities in developing countries are a complicated mix. Issues relating to child labour are survival issues for many in India. India’s position therefore on the social clause would be driven by certain ground realities that it confronts.
    • India is not in favour of isolating Myanmar and believes that it can bring about change through proactive engagement. Though Western countries have taken a stand of isolating the Myanmar regime, India is not in favour of such an approach since Myanmar is strategically important for India. India aims to engage Myanmar not only bilaterally but also through regional institutions.

    Prepared by Dr. Medha Bisht, Research Assistant at IDSA, and Alok Mukhopadhyay, Associate Fellow at IDSA.

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