It was a heart-warming experience for me to be invited to talk to the members of the Indo-Danish Business Association (IDBA) at Chennai on September 14 on the present and future of Indian economy. It was also an eye-opener.
The small country of Denmark, with a population of a little over five million, is the 32nd largest economy in the world with a GDP of more than $330 billion. It is said to be an acknowledged leader in harnessing biomass, solid waste and the winds as major sources of renewable energy.
More to the point, it has 80 companies already operating in India, with 20 or more in Tamil Nadu alone, although Kerala, Maharashtra and Rajasthan are the preferred destinations.
They cover mostly medicinal and pharmaceutical products, energy related equipment and clean and green technology fields. The IDBA helps investors and companies set up new businesses, as well as expand the existing ones, in India. Commendably, Denmark’s focus in forging its business partnerships is on small and medium-size enterprises.
As per official figures, Denmark ranks 19th among foreign investors in India, with a direct investment during 2010 of $231 million. India’s own commodity exports to Denmark totalled $992 million in 2011. The inflow of investments has largely been in sectors such as harbour/port modernisation and expansion, beer breweries, wind turbine/rotor blade manufacturing, agro-intermediates/insecticides, and engineering.
A little known fact is that Denmark has been adjudged to be the “Happiest Country in The World” in the World Happiness Report commissioned for a United Nations conference and brought out by The Earth Institute at Columbia University.
On going a little deeper into it, I learnt that the ranking is based on a “life evaluation score”, taking into account factors such as wealth, governance, integrity, political freedom, social equality and job security.
A shadow has fallen on that happiness by the freezing chill in diplomatic relations between India and Denmark, caused by India’s directive to senior officials of Ministries and Departments not to meet or entertain Danish diplomats and other officials posted in India, and not to go ahead with projects and agreements with Denmark without prior clearance from the External Affairs Ministry.
India has sought to justify this drastic action as a retaliation for the “cussedness” shown by the Danish Government in not doing enough to extradite Kim Davy, a Danish citizen, and accused in the case involving the air-dropping of a huge cache of lethal arms and ammunition at dead of night on December 17, 1995 on a pre-arranged spot in the Purulia district of West Bengal.
The application for his extradition having been rejected by the City Court, and making no headway in the High Court in Denmark, India had been insisting that it should be taken to the Danish Supreme Court.
Apparently the top Prosecutor of the country is not for it, despite advice of three reputed Danish law firms being made available favouring appeal.
The Danish Government, on its part, has been pleading helplessness on the ground that the country’s Prosecutor is independent of the Government and takes his own decisions according to his best lights.
In a news item of July 13, a high Indian government official has been reported as lambasting Denmark for indulging in conduct “against all civilised norms”, being “racist” and “protecting a terrorist”. Clearly, this is odd coming from a country which has been showing unbounded patience in dealing with humiliating rebuffs from countries such as Pakistan and the US, without retaliating.
If India can be large-hearted with them, it can certainly afford to be so towards Denmark, giving due consideration to its plea of helplessness.
India must also remember that there have been any number of published accounts by respected security analysts suggesting that its own hands are not clean in the matter and that even though the Indian intelligence agencies were tipped off in time about the air-drop of arms and ammunition in Purulia, they failed to avert the egregious security breach. The people of India are still waiting to know the reasons why.
For all these reasons, picking on Denmark to vent its frustrations does not befit a great nation such as India aspiring to be a super power of which the hallmarks are dignity and restraint.