Far East meets High North for the first time

President Mukherjee greeted by Mayor Herald Espelund of Ullensaker upon his arrival in Oslo on October 13, 2014.

India’s current Head of State will be making the county’s first ever official visit to the Arctic with a stop planned in Rovaniemi on the Scandinavian diplomatic tour.


They are nearly 5500 kilometres apart, but this week New Delhi and Rovaniemi will be brought closer than ever before.

It’s taken the construction of a permanent Arctic research station, endorsement from several High North-bordering countries and, finally, a presidential visit this week for India’s top elected official to cross, literally, into the Arctic Circle.

President Pranab Mukherjee and his daughter touched down in Oslo today to kick off a five-day diplomatic blitz, that will also see him cross into Finland, aimed at cementing India’s place in the High North.

While Norway and Finland have appeared to keep other eastern countries’ – like China – involvement minimal in the Arctic Circle, India has been extended a warm welcome from the cold climes.

Indian flag hung in Oslo for official visit.

This most recent visit will include ceremonial lunches and a gala dinner in Oslo hosted by Norway’s King Harald V (at whose invitation President Mukherjee is in Norway on), a visit to a WWII cemetery for a wreath laying and the first official step into the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Finland.

On Friday the India’s Secretary (West) of the Ministry of External Affairs, Navtej Sarna,  said, “President Mukherjee is scheduled to visit the town Rovaniemi in Finland and by doing so, will become the first Indian President to cross the Arctic Circle.”

The President and his daughter are joined by India’s Union Minister of State for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and a roster of other high-level Members of Parliament and businessmen. The latter of which will also have meetings with Prime Minister Erna Solberg and the President of the Storting (Parliament), Olemic Thommessen.

It’s a landmark visit in a relationship that has been regarded as “cordial,” albeit distant.

India has a permanent Arctic research station (Himadri) on Svalbard and, as of 2013, an observer seat on the Arctic Council and in the last few years more official visits have been appearing on the calendar signaling a stronger interest on both sides to strengthen the relationship.

This first official visit to Norway appears to be taking a ‘money talks’ approach with a big emphasis being put on improving economic relations and investments between the two countries.

Rovaniemi railway station in the Arctic Circle border town.

Sarna has confirmed that presently Norway has invested four billion dollars of the $180 billion Norwegian Pension Fund in India’s economy. The goal, he says, is for India to encourage investments of close to $20 to 40 billion per year.

India also stands to benefit from Norway’s rich oil and gas reserves, ship building technology, climate research data and sway when it comes to the Arctic Council.

Norway, meanwhile, is eyeing India’s growing buying power in a rapidly expanding consumer market.

President Mukherjee is expected to cross into the Arctic Circle on October 15th.