Thu, 05 Oct 2023

By Ayushi AgarwalNew Delhi [India, May 30 (ANI): Norway's Deputy Foreign Minister Bjorg Sandkjaer, said when it comes to joining alliances, it is important that countries should make their own decisions.

"I believe other countries, it's important that other countries make their own decisions about which alliances to join," Sandkjaer said in an interview with ANI.

The minister responded to the US Congressional Committee's recent recommendation of strengthening NATO Plus by including India in the five-member grouping. Norway is currently hosting an informal meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Oslo, Norway, on May 31- June 1. The meeting will be chaired by the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg.

Speaking about the significance of hosting this meeting, the minister said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has made Norway's and NATO relationship more important than ever.

"Norway has been a member of NATO since its establishment. It has been a very important partnership for us. Being geographically located, where we are, as Norway, we share a border with Russia. So, Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine has really changed the security policy situation for Norway and for us as a country. It means also that our relationships through NATO, maybe even more important than before", said the minister.

"That's the backdrop of us hosting this informal NATO Foreign Minister meeting. That will be part of the preparations for a NATO summit coming up later this year. But this is the situation for Norway. So, I believe other countries, it's important that other countries make their own decisions about which alliances to join", she added.

Earlier, a United States Congressional Committee on CCP (Chinese Communist Party) recommended the inclusion of India in NATO Plus. The suggestion to add India as a member country comes a month before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's scheduled visit to the US.

"Winning the strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party and ensuring the security of Taiwan demands the United States strengthen ties with our allies and security partners, including India. Including India in NATO Plus security arrangements would build upon the US and India's close partnership to strengthen global security and deter the aggression of the CCP across the Indo-Pacific region," stated the Select Committee in the recommendations released earlier.

NATO Plus, currently NATO Plus 5, is a security arrangement that brings together NATO and five aligned nations - Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and South Korea - to boost global defence cooperation.

In the month of March this year, Julianne Smith, the United States Permanent Representative to NATO said that the alliance is "open to more engagement" with India and also confirmed that "informal exchanges" had taken place between some NATO and Indian officials on the sidelines of the annual Raisina Dialogue in Delhi.

While speaking on the Norway and India collaboration, the minister who is on a India visit, said that Norway and India have good collaboration on a number of levels in areas of health, maternal and newborn health. Beyond that, the two countries are partners in increasing the use of renewable energy.

Talking further about India's G20 Presidency, she said that 'It's very interesting and important that India is chairing the G20 and that both countries are in discussion about pandemic preparedness.'"Norway is collaborating quite closely with India. Right now we are in discussions around pandemic preparedness, how can we be better prepared when the next pandemic comes around. Norway is involved in these discussions. One of the areas where we can be better prepared has to do with having better pharmaceutical products and India is a very important player in this area globally", added the minister. (ANI)

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