Kashmir protests as Indian Foreign Minister visits Finland

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar visits Finland at a time of changing relationships between the two countries, with a shift from traditional goods to services.

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Indian Foreign Minister (C) and staff during a meeting with Prime Minister Antti Rinne in Helsinki, 20th September 2019 / Credit: Viivi Myllylä, VNK

A small group of protesters in central Helsinki put on a noisy demonstration as India’s Foreign Minister paid his first official visit to Finland.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar arrived in Helsinki on Thursday night and his Friday programme included bilateral talks with President Sauli Niinistö, Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP) and his foreign minister counterpart Pekka Haavisto (Green).

Outside Little Parliament, around a dozen people with flags and home-made signs protested India’s actions in the disputed territory of Kashmir. The area is claimed by both India and Pakistan, and recently the Indian government stripped Kashmir of its autonomy, leading to clashes between civilians, and the police and military, and reports of increased human rights violations.

Kashmir protesters outside Little Parliament in Helsinki, 20th September 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

On Friday afternoon, both foreign ministers attended the unveiling of a statue to Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern India, in Helsinki’s Allotrianpuisto.

Finland’s relationship with India

Finland and India have had diplomatic relations for 70 years, and these days the relationship between the two countries is changing.

“It is less about traditional trade in goods but more more about trade in services, where India is better. It is increasingly about investments and tourism, as a two-way street” explains Ari Tasanen, Counsellor dealing with India at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Finland is also working to attract Indian IT specialists and other skilled workers through the Talent Boost programme; and education exports are a developing sector in the form of paying students from India.

As a middle-income country, Finland no longer provides bilateral development aid.

These days that’s been replaced by funding from international development banks including European ones for major infrastructure and other development projects in line with India’s own priorities.

“There is a lot of space for Finnish businesses too. Our strong sectors there are energy, including waste-to-energy, circular economy, renewables, bioenergy and coal washing, as well as the engineering industry, ICT and digital solutions” says Ari Tasanen.

Foreign Minister Jaishankar leaves Finland on Saturday heading for the United Nations General Assembly in New York.