In a speech at a banquet on Monday night in his honour by King Harald V and Queen Sonja, Mr. Mukherjee said business sentiments in India were “positive and strong” and the new government was taking a number of measures to “encourage investments, revive the manufacturing sector in India, promote skill development, develop smart cities and engage closely with all interested partners and investors in India and abroad” to make this happen.
He said the government invited investors and entrepreneurs from Norway, an oil and gas-rich nation with one of the world’s highest per capita incomes, to explore possibilities of investment in India’s infrastructure sector.
“We welcome foreign direct investments in our railways, roads and ports, power and communications sectors; we invite Norwegian companies to join Indian counterparts in the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the new government and we are presently simplifying the procedures to facilitate their participation in India’s growth story,” said the President who is making the first state visit from India to Norway.
He said India welcomed the ‘India Strategy’ launched in 2009 by Norway and looked forward to new partnerships and collaborations in areas of common interest.
Mr. Mukherjee also lauded Norway’s role in the “recognition of exceptional human endeavour”, particularly through the institution of the Nobel Peace Prize, and said it was an “outstanding example of the lead taken by you in advancement of human and civilisational values”.
The prize, announced last week in Oslo by the Nobel Prize committee, jointly awarded the peace prize to Kailash Satyarthi of India and Malala Yousufzai of Pakistan, both activists for the cause of children.
He said India appreciated Norway’s endorsement of “India’s rightful claim to Permanent Membership of the United Nations Security Council” and “for your proactive efforts that helped India achieve Observer status in the Arctic Council”.
The Arctic Council is becoming strategically very important as major nations jostle for a toehold there because of its latent reservoirs of oil and gas and because the Arctic Ocean could open in the foreseeable future to an alternate international navigational route because of the melting of the polar icecaps due to global warming.
“Our bilateral co-operation has been no less fruitful. We have a very rewarding partnership in oil exploration and scientific research and are both keen to expand the scope of our collaborative efforts in earth sciences, bio-technology, clean energy, fishing and healthcare.
“I would like to thank the government of Norway for the assistance and support extended to India in establishing our Polar Research Station in Svalbard,” he said.
India attaches great importance to its long standing friendship with Norway, the President said, underlining that “though our two nations are geographically distant from each other, we are bound by our common commitment to democratic values and practice and are both open, pluralistic societies”.
Several bilateral agreements are scheduled to be signed on Tuesday before the President leaves on the second leg of his North Europe trip to Finland where he is scheduled to cross the Arctic Circle.