Cool relations between Denmark and India have become even colder following a report back to Delhi on statements by the Danish Minister for Development Aid on how Danish aid should be distributed around the world.
It was on Oct. 10 that Development Aid Minister Christian Friis Bach (SocLib) told Jyllands-Posten that where possible Denmark should “hand out rights instead of food to help people to fight for their own rights through demonstrations, campaigns, litigation or rights of access to public administration”.
Friis Bach went on to cite a case in India in which a group of citizens introduced litigation against the government which claimed that 400 million Indians did not get enough food, despite a Constitutional right to food.
Quoting government sources, the Indian Express (IE) newspaper, says that all Indian intelligence agencies have since been instructed to ‘double their surveillance on overseas funding to NGOs and civil liberties groups,’ in particular naming the Danish Development Agency DANIDA.
IE says the move comes following a report home by India’s ambassador to Denmark on Oct. 10 on Development Aid Minister Christian Friis Bach’s statement, saying Denmark planned to ‘use Danish official development aid as a tool to generate popular unrest in recipient countries’.
“Friis said that he wanted to promote more of such. He stated that whenever possible, people should be helped to fight for their rights through demonstrations, campaigns or litigation,” the Indian Express says quoting from a letter from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to the Home Ministry in turn quoting the ambassador.
“This approach makes it desirable that a very close watch be kept on any funding coming to Indian organisations or NGOs, including from the Danish Development Agency (DANIDA),” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs is quoted as saying.
Relations between Denmark and India have been more or less frozen since June this year when a Danish High Court of Appeal upheld a decision not to extradite a Danish national Niels Holck – also known in India as Kim Davy - to India.
The court refused the extradition request, saying: “The Courts have found, however, on the basis of a specific assessment of the conditions under which Niels Holck may be expected to be detained after prospective extradition to India, that there is a real risk that Niels Holck will be exposed to treatment that is contrary to Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention,” the statement read.
India accuses Holck of being one of a group that dropped weapons near the town of Purulia in West Bengal in 1995. Weapons, including Kalashnikovs, sniper rifles and anti-tank weapons were dropped over Purulia on December 17, 1995 from a Latvian registered and crewed Antonov An-26 aircraft that had taken off from Burgas in Bulgaria.
Purulia inhabitants contacted local police after finding some of the weapons, by which time the aircraft had continued to Thailand. On its return it entered Indian air space and was forced to land in Mumbai by Indian Air Force jets, but Holck managed to escape capture.
Since the court decision Indian-Danish relations have been very low.
Politiken has asked for a comment from Development Minister Friis Bach on India's reaction to his statement, but due to meetings he has not been available for comment. His secretary Asser Rasmussen Berling, however, has sent a response sent to the Indian Express.
“A number of independent Danish NGOs have been active in India for decades, in close collaboration with Indian partners. Their activities, of course, take place under the overall umbrella of Indian laws and regulations, including the necessary agreements with the authorities. The Danish Government has no plans to specifically increase support to NGOs active in India,” the statement says.
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Edited by Julian Isherwood