Today I went to an interactive meet organized by SICCI in Chennai with the Ambassador of Iceland to India – Mr. Thorir Ibsen. The objective of the meet was to understand and explore the areas (both business and leisure) in which Iceland and India could better cooperate with each other for mutual benefit.
Iceland, if you didn’t know, is a large island nation situated in the arctic region (in the atlantic ocean) between two major markets – America and Europe. The country is not a part of the European Union, but is a part of EU Legislative framework. Iceland has Free Trade Agreements with 38 countries and is negotiating FTA with seven more, including India.
One major area in which Iceland has proven expertise is Renewable Energy – specifically Geothermal and Hydro. In fact, 87% of their energy consumption is from renewable energy. Other than that, Iceland is also popular for their fishing/food processing industries, biotech, medical, and related industries.
It seems, India’s geothermal potential has been assessed to be 10,000 MW and geothermal can complement other types of renewable energies like solar, wind, hydro, etc. With ambitious renewable energy targets set by the PM, geothermal is something we should consider more seriously and Iceland has a lot of expertise to offer in that area.
Another major area where Iceland specializes is tourism. It seems they get tourists amounting to five times their population each year! Many people from all over the world go to see the Northern Light (Aurora – green shades of clouds in the sky), glaciers, snow, volcano, midnight sun (during summers), and other tourist attractions. Schengen visa is also applicable to Iceland, so you could include Iceland in your Europe travel itinerary.
Another area that might be useful to Bollywood and Kollywood movie industries is – Film/Song shooting in Iceland. Popular movies including the recent James Bond, Game of Thrones, and even Indian movies like Gerua song in Dilwale, Nayagi, etc. have been shot in Iceland. From 1st Jan 2017, Iceland is considering to offer a reimbursement of 25% of the film & television production costs incurred in their country.
Indians could also offer their expertise to Iceland. The ambassador told us that commercial foreign investments are always welcome, especially in areas like hospitality which is growing fast in Iceland. I guess Indians could also offer their expertise in IT/ITES and other areas where they have adequate manpower and expertise.
While India doesn’t have a Free Trade Agreement with countries outside the G77 (Mexico and South Korea being an exception), the ambassador feels that liberalizing FTAs to include more countries would help in the growth of the economy.
He told is that Iceland was the first country to endorse India’s case for Permanent Status in the UN General assembly, and the ties between the two countries has the potential to strengthen even more.