Home / Politics / Policy /  Khurshid seeks Norway funds for India’s infrastructure sector

New Delhi: India is looking to get Norway invest some of its $700 billion sovereign funds into its infrastructure sector, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday, as external affairs minister Salman Khurshid began a three-day visit to the Scandinavian country.

Khurshid’s visit comes just weeks after India was admitted as an observer to the eight-member Arctic Council, of which Norway is a member.

Officials from Norway visited India in April and held talks with Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and finance minister P. Chidambaram, according to Syed Akbaruddin, the foreign ministry spokesman. “Norway has amongst the richest sovereign wealth funds. The external affairs minister intends to take these discussions forward and to see how we can facilitate greater investments into India including in to the infrastructure sector through the sovereign wealth fund that Norway has," Akbaruddin said.

India is looking at attracting up to $1 trillion in investments from countries with surplus funds like Qatar and Saudi Arabia into various areas of infrastructure such as roads, ports and railways between 2012 and 2017. It is also looking to attract foreign investment into its manufacturing sector to boost the share of manufacturing in its GDP from the current 14% to 25% by 2022. Besides this, it is also looking to set up new urban clusters along dedicated corridors across the country and is looking for funds from abroad to finance such projects.

“They (the Norwegians) are investing in Indian companies, several of them. They have not yet invested in infrastructure. It is our hope that as they expand their portfolio of investment in India and infrastructure will be one of those areas," Akbaruddin said.

According to the external affairs ministry website, more than 100 Norwegian companies have shown interest in possible business prospects in areas such as ship building, petroleum-related services, marine or submarine drilling equipment, hydropower, clean energy, and information technology (IT) services in India. Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd and Reliance Industries Ltd have tie-ups with Norwegian companies in the petroleum and energy sector. Akbaruddin said Norway was the third largest exporter of oil and had expertise in deep sea oil extraction, which India was interested in. There is also a trend of Norwegian IT companies either offshoring their business to India or acquiring shares in Indian companies. Indian IT companies like Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Infosys Ltd, Larsen and Toubro Infotech Ltd and Wipro Ltd have increased their presence in Norway over the past few years due to the existing potential of IT outsourcing contracts in the country. Norwegian investments in India were estimated at $5.611 billion as of June 2011, while Indian investments in Norway were estimated at $1.833 billion. The overall bilateral economic engagement is estimated at over $15 billion.

Besides this, Khurshid would discuss cooperation in the Arctic Council with his counterpart Espen Eide, the spokesman said. India was admitted as observer of the Arctic Council last month alongwith South Korea and China. “We are extremely interested in the Arctic region and intend to play an active role in the Arctic Council," Akbaruddin said adding India was grateful to Norway for its support to India to become observer. Membership of the Arctic Council has become increasingly prized given the melting of the icecaps in the ecologically fragile but resource rich region that opens the waterways to commercial shipping traffic.

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