Going Dutch and getting stronger
Already on a strong footing, India-Dutch relations are set to get even better in the post Covid world.
India and the Netherlands on April 9 held a virtual summit that was attended by the head of the state of both countries--Narendra Modi for India and Mark Rutte for the Dutch in what was the first high-level summit attended by the latter since winning the general elections last month. It was symbolic of the strong ties that the two countries share as well as the high priority they accord to each other.
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The two Prime Ministers agreed on instituting a ‘Strategic Partnership on Water’ to further deepen the Indo-Dutch cooperation in the water related-sectors, and upgrading the Joint Working Group on water to Ministerial-level.
“Our relations are based on shared values like democracy and the rule of law. Our approach towards global challenges like climate change, terrorism, pandemics is also the same. Convergence is also emerging on our thoughts about new areas like Indo-Pacific resilient supply chains and Global Digital Governance,” Modi said in his opening comments at the summit. “Today, we will give a new dimension to this bond with our Strategic Partnership on Water. The establishment of a fast track mechanism for promoting investment will also add new momentum to our strong economic cooperation. I am confident that in the post-Covid period many new opportunities will open up in which like-minded countries like ours can increase mutual cooperation.”
Going back over 400 years, the two countries share a relationship that is time tested with trade and commerce as the bedrock. In fiscal 2019, Netherlands was the third largest investor in India after Mauritius and Singapore with FDI inflows of $ 3.87 billion.In this millennium till the end of March 2019, Netherlands was the fifth largest investor into India with overall inflows of $ 28.7 billion. It isn’t all one way either. Indian companies have shown great interest in Netherlands as well and the country was the second largest foreign investment worth approximately $ 12 billion by March 2018.
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Yet, as the summit shows, the two nations are not merely complacent with the solid foundation. In fact, both governments have engaged with each other perhaps on more occasions than with any other country. This includes Rutte’s trip to India in 2015 when he was accompanied by a large trade delegation of over 100 companies, or Modi’s trip to the Netherlands in 2017.
Rutte made another trip to India in 2018 when he brought an even bigger delegation comprising over 130 companies and trade representatives numbering over 200. This was overshadowed the very next year during the state visit of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. The Royals were accompanied by a delegation of over 250 people representing more than 140 companies and organizations.
From the Indian side, these visits were reciprocated by external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar two-day visit to the European nation in November 2019.
For India, which is at the forefront of the global war on global warming, there is much to gain from Netherlands. The European nation has been successfully fighting a direct battle against rising sea levels on its own and some of that technical know-how can be put to use in India. It is also more than willing to share its own experience. An Indo Dutch project for example is working on treating dirty water from the Barapullah drain before it goes into the Yamuna river in the national capital. A similar project has also been undertaken in the Unnao-Kanpur leather cluster of Uttar Pradesh.
As health, hygiene and climate change takes centrestage in the post Covid world, projects like these will become more critical expanding the scope and elevating this relationship even further.