'The ecosystem already exists for making and developing the new Gripen in India’

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 25, 2018

KLAS MOLIN Swedish Ambassador to India

Klas Molin, Swedish Ambassador to India, believes that the multi-role warplane Gripen E is the best option for India’s $20-billion single engine fighter jet deal. In an interview with BusinessLine, he said Sweden is supportive of a more equitable and representative UN Security Council (UNSC). Excerpts:

On defence cooperation between India and Sweden, what are the chances of SAAB grabbing the order on India’s single-engine fighter jet deal for its Gripen E?

We are confident that Indian authorities know what they want, and we have every bit of confidence in the Indian selection process. India is taking this initiative in a new and different way, in partnership with the private sector. Sweden, through SAAB, has happily answered a request for more information. I know that those at SAAB know that they have a concept that will work very well in India, and they are already cooperating with several partners in the country. They already have an established group of experienced suppliers. So the ecosystem already exists for making and developing the new Gripen here in India.

But it seems India is having a re-think on the programme, and you are also facing tough competition from the US?

It is for India to decide what India wants and needs. We are ready when India is ready.

Compared to the competition, Gripen is fairly a new fighter, and you have tied up with the Adani Group which has no experience in defence at all …

If you want older technology, then there is an alternative. Gripen is a more modern aircraft. It is now going to its fifth generation. Gripen is also part of a system where aerial defence and surveillance are part of state-of-the-art links and communication. I think sometimes this is overlooked in the discussion. With Gripen, you are looking at a system which will also continue to develop right here in India.

And about tying up with Adani?

The partnership with Adani is not for me to review. These are business decisions, and SAAB also has partnerships with a number of Indian companies in the aviation sector.

What about the issue of transfer of technology (ToT)? Gripen has GE engines, and that may become a conflict of interest with US?

GE engines are very good and concurrently on offer in another aircraft. If they can be offered in one aircraft, I don’t see why they couldn’t be offered in another. The Gripen has been sold or leased in many other countries. The same discussion has taken place then. Swedish authorities have an ongoing discussion with their American counterparts about ToT, licensing and cooperating in third countries. If that didn’t work well, Swedish companies using American technology wouldn’t be able to sell outside Sweden.

Can you tell us something about the meeting between the National Security Advisors (NSAs) held last week?

This is an intergovernmental and interpersonal dialogue. The comments are sensitive and not for me to share. We also have deliberations on topics related to UN and participation in the Security Council. We have always supported reform of the UNSC to make it more equitable and representative.

Did the NSAs discuss the proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT)?

I am sure it was discussed.

India is now focused on cross-border terrorism …

We are naturally very concerned with terrorism in general. The attack in Stockholm in April reminded us that no one is spared. We are facing the scourge of terrorism around the world. International cooperation is key. There are many ways to doing it.

What is happening to the India-Sweden Foreign Office consultations?

The last round was held in July in Stockholm. It is a useful tool. We discuss bilateral cooperation, regional and global issues, cooperation in peace-keeping etc. We have separate talks on trade, investment and economic cooperation. This is also an area where we see tremendous potential for continued growth. We hope the next round of Foreign Office talks will take place before the summer.

Does it frustrate Swedish firms that the India-EU free trade pact is in limbo and the Bilateral Investment Treaty has been suspended?

It would be fantastic if we could get an FTA signed and ratified. But Swedish companies happy investing in India. Swedish companies are doing very well here, from Ericsson and Volvo and IKEA, to the small tech start-ups. We also want to trade more in goods and exchange services more. Free trade is in our DNA. Our economy is export-oriented and trade driven.

Now that the sourcing norms have been diluted, I am sure Ikea will have field day here …

I think IKEA is extremely keen to open later this year and the Indian consumers are just as keen I believe. But IKEA is more than its stores. Sourcing has taken place for more than 30 years here in India, and it continues to developed and being diversified.

Published on January 24, 2018

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