Air India starting direct flight to the Danish capital will help boost business and trade ties between the two countries, India’s Ambassador designate to Denmark Ajit Gupte said. The national carrier’s inaugural flight from New Delhi to the city, carrying more than 200 people, landed yesterday. It was operated by an all-women crew, with commander Rupali Waghmare describing the flight as “very exciting”. In the words of Air India CMD Rajiv Bansal, the flight — which would be operated thrice a week — is connecting the “Mermaid with the Maharaja”.
“The bilateral ties between India and Denmark were affected to a large extent by the Kim Davy issue. There has not been much of progress in the last few years. So this (Air India flight) is a very important positive step towards normalising. It is a very important move,” Gupte told reporters here on Saturday. However, he quickly added: “See I don’t want to link the flights with the ties. It is a very positive step which will encourage the movement of people.”
In January this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked Denmark to extend full support in the extradition of Purulia arms drop case accused Kim Davy, taking into account India’s “sensitivities”. India has sought extradition of Niels Holck aka Kim Davy, an accused in the 21-year-old Purulia arms drop case. Gupte also said direct flight service would help with the economic and people to people ties between the two countries.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a function to mark the landing of the Air India flight at the airport here. When asked whether he sees more growth in bilateral trade, Gupte replied in the affirmative. “As the investments grow, as the two way flow of businessmen increases and there is a signal that is sent out that relations have normalised, we expect trade also to expand… It was around $2.8 billion (in 2016) now and lets see if we can cross $3 billion,” he added.
Even though Denmark is a small country, it has a very high GDP of about $360 billion and it is almost 20 per cent of India’s GDP even though the population is only 5.6 million, Gupte said. “They have also invested a lot in India. About 130 Danish companies have invested about $5 billion. If you take the Danish statistics, they have invested about USD 6.4 billion. Even a big country like Germany had invested about $10 billion. So if Denmark as a small neighbour has invested about $ 6.4 billion despite the political issues, that is a very positive sign,” he said.
Danish companies have presence in infrastructure and services, among other sectors, in India. Indian IT companies, including TCS and Tech Mahindra, have significant presence in Denmark. On Saturday, Bansal said Copenhagen is the 11th destination in Europe for Air India and it is “connecting the Mermaid with the Maharaja”, adding that he was looking forward for good passenger load. The iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ statue in Copenhagen is one of the city’s most famous monuments. The bronze structure sits on a rock by waterside in the city and represents a famous character from a fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. According to Air India’s Director (Commercial) Pankaj Srivastava, the inaugural flight had good cargo load.