Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sweden – Musings of a Novice

Sweden is a beautiful country in Scandinavia. It is currently in news. President Pranab Mukherjee is paying a state visit to Sweden on May 31, 2015, the first ever visit by an Indian President. India-Sweden relations have been good and friendly in spite of some negative fallout of the Bofors issue. Unfortunately again, President Mukherjee’s visit has attracted avoidable negative media attention on account of the President’s reported remarks on the Bofors issue in his interview to the leading Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. Both India and Sweden being democracies and open societies, every mechanism is in place to discuss and resolve the contentious issues. Our Ambassador to Sweden, Banashri Bose Harrison is one of the senior and finest diplomats of India.  I am confident that these minor irritants will be settled with an open mind to mutual satisfaction.

I myself was posted in Stockholm from 1991-94. Ambassador
Credentials ceremony of Ambassador P.S. Sahai
Paramjit Singh Sahai, a thorough gentleman and a sober and fine diplomat, was my boss. His wife, Neena, was a perfect hostess and a kind lady. Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf paid a state visit to India in October, 1993. President Pranab Mukherjee’s current visit may be termed as a reciprocal one though undertaken after a long gap. Ambassador Sahai, before going to Delhi in advance, hosted an elaborate banquet in honour of the Swedish King at India House at the prestigious Villagatan in Stockholm. I still cherish the memories of that evening at India House. It was a mix of majestic informality and diplomatic finesse. I remember vividly that the King asked for fresh green chilies at the dinner table, finding that the food was kept moderately hot to cater to the Swedish guests. Later, being the Charge d’ Affaires of the Embassy, in the absence of Ambassador Sahai, it fell on me and my wife Vidya to see off King XVI Gustaf on his visit to India in the early morning of October 11 from a domestic airport in a military aircraft. There was no ceremony except a formal hand shake and a flower bouquet by us. Similarly, it was a simple affair on return from India on October 16. The Swedish King’s visit attracted considerable media and public attention. I recall some of the journalists, interested in the cultural aspects of the relations and the visit, asked me about the meaning of ‘Bindi’ (kumkum) with reference to the Swedish VVIP’s welcome at the Hotel in New Delhi and their visit to Taj Mahal at Agra.

President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit will further strengthen relations
With  Pallavi, Naresh and Vidya
between India and Sweden to mutual advantage. Since one of my sons, Naresh and his family live in Stockholm;  my wife and I have visited Sweden many a times even after my diplomatic duties. We cherish the memories of our stay in Stockholm in the early 1990s and subsequent visits. Last year, I visited Stockholm in July-August to beat the heat of Jalandhar and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I blogged regularly about our day to day activities in Stockholm during our last visit.


  1. I was in Stockholm when the Swedish Radio and Dagens Nyheter blasted Bofors. Ambassadors Bhupat Oza and Pushkar Johari used their diplomatic skills to douse the flames but it went on to BOFORS - Beginning of Fall of Rajiv Sarkar. It is another matter that the same guns stood us in good stead to chase away the Pakistani troops from Kargil!

  2. thanks sharmaji. it ( efficacy of the gun) has been acknowledged by Raksha Mantri Parrikar also.