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Transcript of Special Virtual Briefing following India-Finland Virtual Summit by Joint Secretary (CE) (March 16, 2021)

March 17, 2021

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends, Namaskar and Good evening. Thank you for joining us for this special briefing following the India-Finland virtual summit. I have with me Smt. Neeta Bhushan, Joint Secretary (Central Europe) in the ministry. May I invite Joint Secretary to make her opening remarks following which she will take your questions. Over to you ma’am.

Smt. Neeta Bhushan, JS(CE): Thank you Anurag. Good evening to all of you. First, I will just like to make my opening remarks. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Finland H.E. Ms. Sanna Marin today held wide ranging discussions during a virtual summit, which lasted just under an hour. This was the first interaction between the two Prime Ministers since PM of Finland H.E. Ms. Marin assumed office in 2019. Earlier our Prime Minister had interacted with the then Prime Minister of Finland, Mr. Juha Sipla during the latter's visit for the Make in India week in February 2016 and during the India Nordic summit in Stockholm in February 2018. Both the leaders underlined that the long standing close relations between India and Finland were based on shared values of democracy, rule of law, equality and respect for human rights. They reaffirmed their strong commitment to work for multilateralism, a rules based international order, and to work towards Sustainable Development Goals and combating climate change. The two Prime Ministers exchanged views on the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccine solidarity, and emphasised the unprecedented global efforts in speeding up the development and scaling up of manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and the need to promote equitable access to all countries. Both sides agree that there was an ongoing collaboration in a number of important areas such as innovation, R&D, energy, including clean technologies, trade and investment. The ongoing collaboration in joint development of Quantum Computer with the use of Artificial Intelligence, which is going on between Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research, Pune and Aalto University in Finland to meet the societal challenges was an excellent example of the close association in niche areas. The two Prime Ministers announced a high level dialogue on education between the Education Ministries of both the countries. In this direction the two leaders welcomed the proposal to renew the MOU between consortium of 10 Finnish Universities and 23 IITs for the next five years. They also announced a digital partnership in future ICT, future mobile technologies and digital education. They announced a sustainability partnership involving renewable and clean energy, circular economy, and sustainable mobility. Both sides also discussed cooperation in the context of WTO and conveyed their support to an open, inclusive and rules based multilateral trading system. They also discussed cooperation in the context of Arctic Council where India is an observer. Both sides noted the growing importance of Africa and referred to their efforts to enhance cooperation in Africa. The Prime Minister invited Finland to join International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. The virtual summit will help carry forward the momentum in our multifaceted bilateral ties. The two leaders expressed satisfaction and confidence that the areas of cooperation under the India-Finland partnership will continue to deepen and gain further strength. The two leaders agreed to meet again during the next India-EU leaders meeting, as well as the Nordic summit, which is scheduled to be held later this year. A joint statement is being released and a copy will be available on our website. Thank you.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, ma'am for those opening remarks. I'll move on to the questions. I'll start with questions that I've received on technology cooperation. Pushkar from The New Indian Express asks, "Is there a plan to cooperate with Finland on this aspect to boost digital education in India?” Elizabeth from Livemint wants to know, "Was there any discussion on 5G technologies?” and Siddhant from Wion asked in the context of the ongoing collaboration in the joint development of a Quantum Computer using Artificial Intelligence. He wants to know if there any further details that you can share on this.

Smt. Neeta Bhushan, JS(CE): Yes, I think all these three areas have emerged as one of the most important aspects of our cooperation. And in today's virtual summit, both the Prime Ministers noted that digital domain was one of our key sectors. And an intensive partnership between India and Finland is ongoing in this area, as well as in the area of future education. They spoke about digitization, use of digital tools for learning. As I mentioned, both sides have announced the digital partnership in the field of ICT, future mobile technologies and digital education. As I have already mentioned about the high level dialogue and the proposal to have an MOU between the consortium of 10 Finnish universities and 23 IITs. Skill development also emerged as an important area. Coming to 5G, yes, certainly it was a very important area of collaboration. As you are aware, Finland has been a pioneer in 2G, 3G and 4G Technologies. Nokia is already working in rural areas for expansion of 5G applications. Wipro and Tech Mahindra are working with Finnish companies and institutes for further collaboration and expansion of 5G and in the evolution of 6G technologies as well. When I come to Quantum Computer and Artificial Intelligence, this is, as I mentioned, one of the niche areas and the institutes are IISER in Pune and Finnish side is led by Aalto University. Thank you.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Moving on to the question on energy, there is a question from Pushkar from The New Indian Express. He wants to have further details on the cooperation on renewable energy and waste management.

Smt. Neeta Bhushan, JS(CE): Yes, both these areas have been identified and are very important for our bilateral partnership. As you are aware, Finland has cutting edge technology in the areas of renewable energy and waste management. To give an example some Finnish companies such as Fortum and Chempolis are working towards setting up of bio refineries within the Numaligarh Refinery Complex in Assam. There is ongoing collaboration between both sides in technologies related to biofuels, and conversion of waste to energy.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: There is a question from Shridhar and Siddhant, they are similar questions, so I'll take them together. They want to have further details on the Indo-Nordic summit, which is scheduled for later this year. And Siddhant specifically wants to know the key reason for increased engagement with the Nordics.

Smt. Neeta Bhushan, JS(CE): We are deepening our engagement with all regions of the world, including with the Nordic countries. All these countries ranked very high in human development and innovation indices. They are repositories of cutting edge technologies. Companies from all these countries have strong presence in India, and are actively participating in our Make in India programme. In today's summit, both Prime Ministers discussed further expansion of our digital partnership, sustainability partnership, AI and other new and emerging technologies. Details of the Indian-Nordic summit are not yet available. I can just share that we have received an invitation from the Prime Minister of Denmark to participate in the second Nordic summit, which is scheduled to be held later this year. And the dates are under discussion at the moment.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: A question from Pushkar from The New Indian Express, he asked, "Will Finnish start-ups be given concessions for collaborations with MSMEs to boost this sector?"

Smt. Neeta Bhushan, JS(CE):
As you are aware, India and Finland are among the top start up ecosystems in the world. Start-up India and Business Finland have started India - Finland tech hub. This is a virtual platform to connect the respective start-up ecosystems to enable entrepreneurs to network with their mentors, incubators and investors. They also provide hand holding to start-ups who require this kind of assistance. And it has recently been launched. And it is now a forum where many people are going and discussing issues with each other.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Then there's a question from Siddhant. In fact, two questions. "Was Myanmar discussed during the virtual summit? And has Finland shown interest in the Indo-Pacific vision?”

Smt. Neeta Bhushan, JS(CE): Yes, both Prime Ministers expressed concern over the recent developments in Myanmar, and mentioned that rule of law must be upheld. As a country that shares land and maritime border with Myanmar we have the highest stakes in peace and stability in the country. We have traditionally strong cultural, religious and people to people ties with Myanmar, and safety of people remains our top priority. As far as Indo Pacific is concerned, this was not discussed. It was not on the agenda.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: There are no further questions. So thank you, ma'am for joining us. And this concludes the special briefing.

Smt. Neeta Bhushan, JS (CE): Thank you Anurag.

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