Disruption of what we saw as the World Order was already the case as the world entered the third decade of the third millennium. Strategic competition in Asia is increasing with flashpoints from the Himalayas, the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and to the Senkaku Islands, showing us a China that is ready to pursue what it sees as its interests also at the cost of its neighbours. The global pandemic has strengthened global disruptive trends.
For India, a changing strategic environment means that it is dealing with a complex set of geopolitical situations, due to the border tensions with China and Pakistan, the situation in Afghanistan as well as China intensifying its relations to Iran, Nepal and Bangladesh—traditionally seen as India’s allies. The complex factors have resulted in a renewed competition for influence over India by the US and Russia, both of which offer to "loan" their strategic power and military hardware to India for its defence and security requirements.
Obviously, strategic cooperation with major powers establishes a two-way street of costs and benefits. Dependence on either Russia or the US runs counter to the Indian drive for self-reliance as it has been articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and also implemented in a series of actions, particularly in the area of defence.
For India to retain true strategic independence it is therefore essential to collaborate with countries that are able and willing to partner with India's quest for self-sufficiency in military and defence as well as in strategic civilian industrial relations. We have seen that countries like France, Sweden and Germany have offered capabilities without geopolitical strings attached.
India and Sweden are very different countries—in history, culture, economy, development, and not least, of course, size. Sweden is a country of 10.5 million people but has a GDP per capita of about $57 000, which is more than four and a half times the world’s average. Swedish companies realised early on that they had to be global as the domestic market is too small for them. Today, exports of goods and services make up about 45 percent of Sweden's GDP.
Sweden and Swedish companies have offered full-scale transfer of capabilities as well as technology and are keen to make India a home base country if they are given a free hand and control over their companies. They not only seek to provide best-in-class equipment across the spectrum, they are willing to make a transfer of technology that includes the transferring capability to design and develop equipment. Sweden can provide India with equipment, material and technology that can deal with challenges and are also the most advanced in their domain.
There will be a New Normal after the pandemic, but a new strategic landscape remains, which will need to be met by India with a resolve for security, and for sustainable and equitable growth. It is my belief that it is time for India and Sweden to come together to share knowledge, skills, technology and capability. It is also my strong conviction that a strong India which counter all threats is essential to maintain peace and security in the region.
—Harald Sandberg is Senior Executive Advisor, Sweden India Business Council, and former Ambassador of Sweden to India. The views expressed are personal
(Edited by: By Ajay Vaishnav)
First Published: IST