Although not so much in focus, India and The Netherlands have, in recent years, become close partners. This was particularly on display during the two-day visit of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to New Delhi and Bengaluru, when India and The Netherlands agreed to boost their bilateral trade and investment and strengthen cooperation across a variety of critical sectors, from agriculture and food processing to water management and science and technology.
In words that resonated warmly with his hosts, Rutte declared India to be an “obvious candidate” for a seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC). After a bilateral summit between Rutte and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they attended an India-Netherlands CEOs Round Table and an industry event where Rutte said, “India is an obvious candidate for a permanent seat in the UNSC...it is surprising that India isn’t a member in this day and age.”
Modi said hundreds of Dutch companies have been operating in India for many years.
“The Netherlands is the fifth largest source of the total foreign direct investment made in India till now,” he said. Similarly, he said, The Netherlands was a very attractive investment destination for Indian companies.
Rutte said ties between India and The Netherlands have become very close both on the economic and the political sides.
“Many Indian companies, which are active in The Netherlands, are helping us to build a more successful and more resilient society,” he stated. At an interactive session in New Delhi before he left for Bengaluru, Rutte urged strengthening of the UN and multilateral trade arrangements and sought swift completion of the India- European Union Free Trade Agreement.
“A Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between the European Union (EU) and India is long overdue. I will make a personal investment in the EU-India relationship and try to revive the talks,” Rutte said.
Negotiations for the BTIA, or free trade agreement, started in 2007 but were put on hold in 2015.
“We have a particular interest in this issue, because 20 per cent of Indian exports to the EU enter through Dutch ports. This role of a European hub has been bolstered by Brexit,” Rutte said.
External Affairs Ministry figures show bilateral trade between India and The Netherlands was USD7.621 billion (April 2017-Feb 2018). A joint statement issued after the summit said Modi and Rutte acknowledged the role of the private sector in boosting trade and investment relations and underlined the opportunities for intensive Indo-Dutch collaborations under India’s flagship initiatives such as Make in India and StartUp India.
“Highlighting the role of youth in enhancing future collaboration in innovation and startups, the leaders welcomed the launch of the StartUpLink initiative by Invest India and the Netherlands Embassy in Delhi,” the statement said.
“Both sides agreed to intensify their resolve to enhance cooperation under the aegis of the MoU (memorandum of understanding) in the field of water management signed in June 2017 with focus on the Clean Ganga campaign,” it stated.
Modi said that Indo-Dutch cooperation in science and technology would be further strengthened when The Netherlands participates as the partner country in the Tech Summit to be held in India in 2019.
Following their May 24 summit, Rutte also signed the framework agreement of the India-initiated International Solar Alliance (ISA). Launched by Modi and former French President Francois Hollande at the Paris climate summit in 2015, the ISA was conceived as a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate.
The two countries signed various agreements and initiatives across different sectors, like knowledge institutions, water, agri-food and horticulture, hi-tech, IT and space, life sciences and health, smart cities, business, and sustainability.