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

Is Finland participating in some of the Mission Mode projects in India such as Make in India, Clean Ganga, Clean India, Digital India, Smart Cities, Startup India?

We are encouraging India to become an active observer in the Arctic Council of which Finland has chairmanship till next spring (two-year term). So what I’m basically telling you is that what happens 7,000 km away in Finland and the Arctic region impacts what happens in India, and vice versa

Yes we are contributing to most of these programmes. For instance Smart Cities is a joint Nordic effort called Nordic Sustainable Cities—all five Nordic countries are working together to familiarize Indian counterparts with Nordic ideas and solutions. The areas we focus on majorly are waste management, IT-based solutions, traffic solutions, and overall how to make your city smart. We are cooperating with two cities in Uttar Pradesh and one in Goa. And we have had representatives from these cities visiting all five Nordic capitals. Once again seeing is believing, in Helsinki the Indian visitors familiarized themselves with Smart City Planning, we were able to show our Indian delegates how to build houses that are environmentally and ecologically friendly, energy passive, and, of course, smart. They were shown how these houses can be operated from a distance. Besides, demonstrations were given on how traffic can be organized to improve safety.

Insofar as Make in India is concerned, there are Finnish companies that have been working in India for years. They have been producing in India, not only for the Indian market, but are also using India as a hub to export to nearby nations. In Digital India, Nokia was one of the leading network operating companies. As far as StartUp India goes, we’ve a famous Finnish event called Slush. Forty Indian StartUps were in Helsinki in early December to participate at Slush. The event brings together startup companies and investors. It is a place where a startup makes a pitch and if an investor is interested, then it gets the funding. As a matter of fact one of the leading Indian companies had its annual meeting in Finland where they organized a kind of a Shark Tank (popular TV programme) in Finland. There were a handful of Finnish contestants, and the winner got a hefty amount of money.