January 2019 \ Cover Story \ DIPLOMATIC INTERVIEW
“There is momentum in Finland-India relations”

From growing interest among Finnish businesses in India to greater tourism flow from India to Finland, plenty of bilateral action is happening on either side. Besides, trade flow is improving and with a few more likely agreements in place soon, volumes are expected to go up significantly. Ambassador Nina Vaskunlahti who has completed two years in India spoke to Editor and Publisher SayantanChakravarty on a range of subjects highlighting India-Finland relations

Could you throw some light on the cooperation between the two countries on Arctic issues?

In the spring of 2018 we organized a think-tank event on Arctic issues. It may appear to most that India is very far away from the Arctic, but the truth is that what happens in our part of the world does affect India. Both countries will feel the effects of melting Arctic ice due to black carbon and overall climate change. It will affect the environment and climate in the Himalayas and have an impact on flows and flooding. There will be a rise in the levels of sea water, which means the vast Indian population living along your very large coastline stands to be affected adversely. Also India’s carbon emissions remain a worry for us in the Arctic region. We need to find solutions on reducing the carbon footprint. Finland is currently chairing the Arctic Council (its two-year term ends in spring of 2019). So we are encouraging India to play the role of an active observer in this Council. Both nations have a joint interest in making the world a better place.

What are the major opportunities for investment by Indian businesses in Finland?

So far there have been investments in holiday and tourism businesses. Holiday Club Finland is owned by an Indian company—they run holiday resorts where you buy a share for a week or a month. Indian investments include those in the IT sector, and data centres—Finland provides a good environment to keep data safe and cool. There’s one new field I’d like to take up in particular, that is Finnish consumer goods, especially in the food and beverages sector. There’s no doubt that the Indian market is tough to enter, but I think there is increasing interest from Finnish companies. We tell them not to be overwhelmed by the large expanse of India, its diversity and its considerable market size. We encourage them to look at smaller chunks, foray into targeted regions, or states, before venturing out nationally. Finland on the other hand is relatively much more homogenous as a market and, therefore far easier to understand for investors.