New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee returned home on Friday after completing his official five-day state visit to Norway and Finland.

India and Norway signed several Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) and agreements designed for further collaboration between two governments in areas such as diplomatic visa waivers, research and development, joint knowledge sharing programmes, exchange of faculty, scientists and research scholars, and exchange of research materials and information.

Also, 19 pacts to step up cooperation in energy, fishing and education, besides exploring tie-ups in science and technology were signed between India and Finland.

Addressing the media on board his flight back home, Mukherjee said his emphasis on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative drew a lot of queries from the two countries.

“Quite a few of them enquired about the campaign ‘Make in India’ and ‘Made in India’. I clearly explained to them that, that does not mean that we shall be restrictive. There is no question of diluting our commitment to the international community about the trade liberalisations but at the same time we would like to see that more investments take place in India so that we can skill our workforces because India is going to be the supplier of workforces to the aging world,” said Mukherjee.

The ‘Make in India’ initiative aims to turn India into a manufacturing hub and contains proposals to get foreign companies to invest in India by focusing on 25 sectors including chemicals, information technology, automobiles, railways, renewable energy, design manufacturing, bio-technology, pharmaceuticals, mining and electronics among others.

Establishment of an investor facilitation cell will guide foreign investors and help them attain the necessary clearances.

Modi has been a major advocate of skill development and the initiative is part of his push to have a skilled India.

Meanwhile, stressing on India’s involvement with the Arctic Council, Mukherjee said it is not only India which will derive benefits from the cooperation but the world at large will be beneficial.

“Arctic Council have undertaken very important research and innovation job and our involvement with them in research and innovation will be the future guidance of working out the policy, which will be beneficial not only to the people of India but to the people of the whole world,” he said.

Mukherjee further said that he had talks with both Norway and Finland on how to counter militancy as well.

“What we discussed and there is agreement that terrorism is a menace and it has no respect for border or religion or even any ideology. Therefore, this menace is to be confronted by the collective action of the international community and there was no divergence of views on this,” added Mukherjee.

This was the first visit by an Indian president in 26 years to Finland. Late President R. Venkataraman had visited the country in 1988. Mukherjee had travelled to Finland as commerce minister in 1993.

Mukherjee also became the first Indian President to cross Arctic Circle to visit Santa Claus’s official home and meet him in person.

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Free Press Journal