President Mukherjee to visit Norway, Finland from Oct 12

A visit to the village of Santa Claus will make President Pranab Mukherjee the first Indian Head of State ever to cross the Arctic Circle during his six-day visit to Norway and Finland starting October 12.

PTI| Last Updated: Oct 11, 2014, 00:28 AM IST

New Delhi: A visit to the village of Santa Claus will make President Pranab Mukherjee the first Indian Head of State ever to cross the Arctic Circle during his six-day visit to Norway and Finland starting October 12.

The visit of Mukherjee to Santa Claus village in Rovaniemi in Finland at the Arctic Circle will take place during second leg of his two-nation visit.

Besides the visit to the village, there are a number of programmes focussing on Arctic Circle in the itenerary of the President who will also be the first Indian Head of the State to visit Norway.

This includes his visit to Fram Museum, dedicated to the story of Norwegian polar expeditions, where he will speak using a visual link with Indian scientists working at Himadri--the country's first Arctic research station located at Spitsbergen, Svalbard--and will also interact with PhD students studying at the University of Svalbard.

"Without ruling out anything, I would like to underline that our focus (in the arctic council) at the moment is scientific and technological and earth sciences-oriented because it is a very difficult terrain and we have to see how the other countries approach it," Secretary (West) Navtej Singh Sarna told reporters here.

The developments in the Arctic directly impacts monsoon in India and the region needs to be studied in detail. Besides setting up a station in the Arctic region, India has also set up a deep sea probe to study the area.

Norway had unconitionally supported India's case as an observer at the Arctic Council in 2013--a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses issues of states in the region and people living there.

During the visit, the President will have meetings and interactions with King Harald and other members of the royal family--Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit.

The President will also have meetings with Prime Minister Erna Solberg and the President of the Storting (Norweigian Parliament) Olemic Thommessen.

India is looking at the expertise of the Scandinavian country in education, deep sea fishing, ship and port building, hydrocarbons and nuclear safety besides investment.

"Norweigian pension fund is the largest in Europe. It is 850 billion USD and some amount of this--about four billion dollars--is being invested in India. There is a commitment to invest 20-40 billion dollars and we will see how can we push that further," Sarna said.

He also said there is a possibility of cooperation in the nuclear safety issue in the Halden Reactor Project.

After the two-days visit to Norway, the President will reach Finland on October 14 where he will meet his counterpart Sauli Niinisto, Prime Minister Alexander Stubb and other leaders, an External Affairs Ministry statement said.

It will be the first visit by an Indian President to Finland in 26 years. Late President R Venkataraman had visited the country in 1988. Mukherjee had travelled to Finland as Commerce Minister in 1993.

In Helsinki, the President will be addressing a business seminar and will also visit 'Arktikum' museum and Arctic Science Centre.

Mukherjee will be accompanied by a high-level delegation that includes union minister P Radhakrishnan, senior officials and senior representatives of educational and academic institutions and the business community.