Finland, known as “the happiest country in the world”, is keen to make itself more visible in Bengal as part of the country’s strategy to further Indo-Finnish relations, which date back to 1947 when the Scandinavian country set up its first resident embassy in Asia in Delhi.
“Calcutta and Bengal have always been very important for us…. But we think we are not enough visible here and that’s something we want to change,” Ritva Koukku-Ronde, the Finnish ambassador in India, told The Telegraph on Wednesday.
“I think Bengal is in the same league with Karnataka or Maharashtra and we are very much aware of the potential of the region,” she added.
As part of her attempt to expand commercial and cultural ties between Bengal and Finland, the career diplomat from the Nordic country is on a four-day visit to the city, along with Jukka Holappa, commercial counsellor and country director of Business Finland, during which she has been meeting chambers of commerce representatives, prominent business houses and people from the world of art and culture.
“We are looking at sending a ministerial delegation for the industry summit,” said Ritva referring to the Global Bengal Business Summit that the state government plans to hold next year.
She added that the country was keen on sending Finnish films to the Kolkata International Film Festival and also take part in the Book Fair here to augment cultural ties with the region.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin agreed on a digital partnership — during a virtual summit held in March — between the two countries to facilitate research and development of 6G mobile technologies, quantum computing and digital transformation of teaching.
Modi and Marin also announced a sustainability partnership involving renewable and clean energy, circular economy, and sustainable mobility with the underlying theme of making “green growth” the cornerstone of bilateral cooperation.
The Finland government is also trying to woo Indian students to Finnish universities with the tagline, “Future is Made in Finland”, besides promoting its tourism potential, called the country of a thousand lakes and Santa Claus.
Finland, however, is known for its research and development focus in a variety of fields, from next generation telephony to recycling technologies capable of producing biodegradable packaging materials and fibre that is used by textile majors across the globe.
“In Finland, we know how to come up with new technology in different sectors while Indian companies are known for their abilities to scale up and market the technology,” said Jukka, adding that the two countries can have significant gains with higher degrees of cooperation.
Already, some top Indian companies — like Wipro
and Mahindra & Mahindra — are in Finland and leveraging the technical prowess of Finnish academic institutes in the field of 6G telephony. Similarly, Nokia, a Finnish company, has tie-ups with the Karnataka government.
“The two-way trade in goods and services is little over 2 billion euros, but that doesn’t capture the scale of bilateral relations, which is much broader and bigger,” said Jukka, optimistic about a higher trajectory in the Finland-India partnership in the coming days.
The honorary consul of Finland, Shashwat Goenka, said a strong partnership between Finland and the region will be a win-win, and hence will help in expanding the footprint of Finland in the eastern region.