November 2017 \ Cover Story \ DIPLOMATIC INTERVIEW
“Indo-Dutch relationship is booming like never before”

H.E. Mr Alphonsus Stoelinga, Ambassador of the Netherlands in India, whom we had put on our cover in April 2016, speaks to Editor Sayantan Chakravarty of India Empire on the booming business relationship between the two countries. At the India Empire Diplomatic Night held in April 2017, he was the recipient of a special award for strengthening ties between the North-Western European Region and India. He received the award from Union Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh

We understand that Business Missions from India to the Netherlands have gone up. We’re sure that the Embassy in Delhi has contributed significantly towards this. Your comments please…

That is indeed a very nice conclusion. Well, you know, the thing that I always say is that if you have such a connectivity increase, then of course travel and business will be enhanced. But the most important is, that airlines start flying between destinations, because there is heavy business going on, which makes sure that their planes will be full of passengers and cargo. Look at the Chinese, they create these corridors, OneBeltOneRoute. I say it is not necessary for governments to create corridors, because if the business is there, the corridor comes by itself. Nobody told Jet Airways to create these flights. They did it by themselves because the business was there, and they run very good business. On the business delegations you mention, we, of course, had the visit of Prime Minister Modi to the Netherlands in June. Our Prime Minister had visited in 2015. These visits are important and significantly leave their mark. During the meeting between the two Prime Ministers, the most important things discussed were on the subjects of water, agriculture and finance. In order to introduce Dutch technologies in India, you also need financing of those technologies. These were discussed. The meeting provided an enormous impetus to the ongoing relations. I can tell you that not only for travelers, but also for exports, the Netherlands is a hub for India in Europe. Twenty per cent of all your exports to Europe, enter Europe through the Netherlands. Also from the investment perspective, plenty of Indian companies see the Netherlands as an ideal location to set up their European headquarters and their European distribution base. Look at TATA Steel. They diminished their operations in Britain, they joined forces with a German company and will have their European headquarters in the Netherlands. The reason being that the Netherlands is the most ideal location in Europe from many aspects. Since Brexit was announced sometime in the middle of 2016, the number of Indian companies establishing themselves in the Netherlands is up more than 300 percent. The last thing investors want is uncertainty. The Netherlands presents the best alternative for Indian investors post-Brexit. Our government is setting targets on the number of Indian companies to attract to the Netherlands, the investment volume concerned and on the number of jobs to be created in the Netherlands in this way. It’s one of the reasons, we’ve opened a Consulate General in Bengaluru. In February 2017 I opened the Shell Technology Centre in that city. They have 2,000 engineers and the numbers will increase to 5,000. We are talking of engineers here, not workers. These are incredible figures, and yes, things are very much booming!

Ambassador Stoelinga with Vikas Bahl, the director of the movie Queen at the IIFTC-India International Film Tourism Conclave on February 23, 2017 in Mumbai

Recently some Bollywood movies have been shot in locations in the Netherlands. We also understand that there is a cash rebate for filming in the Netherlands. Kindly explain a bit more on how this works…

Yes, 50 per cent. So if you go to the Netherlands and shoot a film, the Dutch Government pays 50 per cent of the cost. It is not tax deduction, it is subsidy. Recently I gave an award in Mumbai to the director (Vikas Bahl) of the film Queen that was shot in the Netherlands. These days at discotheques in Amsterdam they are playing music from the Queen. The director was very happy about shooting in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is India’s 6th largest trading partner in the EU, and the 5th largest investment partner globally. In your opinion, has Prime Minister Modi’s visit to your country earlier this year, furthered business and economic relations?

If you talk about finances, you could say the Netherlands is the fourth largest source of FDI for India, and likewise, India is the fifth biggest source of FDI for us. We have flows going both ways, which is very good for a healthy relationship since we invest in you, and you invest in us. Mutually, we invest in each other’s strong points. Mostly it has been private enterprise both ways, but going forward we also will need to look at public-private partnerships. During Mr Modi’s visit, we spoke about enhancing investments in public infrastructure like roads, railways, airports. We also spoke about River Ganga where in order to make technology available for cleaning up, sewage treatment you need Dutch companies to come here with technology, find Indian partners and attract private and/or public financing. That’s the reason why we have started the India-Netherlands Financial Corridor. The idea is to promote Dutch pension funds and other (for example sovereign) funds to invest in public infrastructure in India. So on top of the private money flowing in to the private sector here, we also want that to come in to the public sector. This is one. The other is that we have lot of technology to offer in agriculture. The population of the Netherlands is smaller than that of New Delhi, but we are the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world after the United States. Our agriculture is extremely efficient. We are now in talks with Dutch and Indian parties to create a Food Processing Bank in India. This is a key area. Grading of apples, processing of potatoes, rice and grain, making of confectionary and bakery products provides value addition. Through the financial corridor and the food processing bank, we want to finance the transfer of Dutch agro technologies to the Indian market. In agriculture the partnership between the Netherlands and India speaks for itself.