Relations between Denmark and India are at an all-time low as a result of a decision by the Danish courts not to extradite a Danish national to India on terrorism charges, with President Pratibha Devisingh Patil now having cancelled a visit to Denmark this summer.
Politiken reports this morning that President Patil was to have opened an exhibition of modern Indian art in Copenhagen this summer as part of a Danish-Indian project on an exchange of art and scientific and business cooperation.
But the organisers of the project – India Today/Copenhagen tomorrow have been told that the president will not be coming.
“I had received confirmation from Indian officials that the president would come. But because of the Niels Holck case and the Danish government’s handling of the case, she will not be coming after all,” says Steen Lassen, chairman of a Danish fund and who has taken the initiative for ‘India Today’.
At issue is the case of Niels Holck, whom India accuses 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.
Despite a go-ahead from the Danish Justice Ministry that Holck could be extradited to India on certain conditions, the Danish courts determined last year that Holck could not be extradited for fear of maltreatment in Indian custody.
“India is deeply disappointed and offended that the Danish government didn’t appeal the case to the Supreme Court,” says Lassen.
India’s embassy in Copenhagen has not wanted to comment on President Patil’s cancellation, referring the issue to India Today organisers.
The presidential decision is yet another sign that relations between India and Denmark are at an all-time low. A Parliamentary delegation has cancelled its visit to India and there are currently no official ministerial contacts between the two countries.
The deep-freeze continues as the European Union holds a summit today on what may be one of the world’s largest free trade agreements involving some 1.7 billion people in India and the EU.
The Danish Confederation of Industries (DI) and the Danish Chamber of Commerce both say that Danish companies risk being side-lined on one of the world’s most important markets.
“Denmark has been given a red card in all of the public-private projects in India. It reminds us of the Prophet Mohammed crisis. It is frustrating to lose such a major potential,” says DI Spokesman Peter Thagesen.
Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal says that “Indian anger and disappointment over the Niels Holck case is heartfelt”.
“As far as we know, no Danish orders have been lost. But the strained official relations are making it difficult for us to help Danish companies take advantage of the many options in India,” Søvndal says.
FACEBOOK – Follow Politiken’s News in English
Edited by Julian Isherwood