New Delhi [India]: Norway’s Ambassador to India Nils Ragnar Kamsvag recently visited the state of West Bengal for the first time, and reiterated his country and government’s commitment to promote 261 years of association in various fields of mutual interest.
Among other things, Bengalis are seafarers, fish eaters and mountain dwellers. Does this sound familiar? To any Norwegian it certainly would. No wonder, then, that Bengal used to be Norway’s gateway to India.
With proud cultural and historical traditions and with a population of almost 100 million – and most of them avid fish eaters – visiting the state of West Bengal was an obvious choice for Ambassador Kamsvag. Spending a full week in the state, the Embassy toured West Bengal from 17 to 21 October.
It was the first visit of Ambassador Kamsvag to a region with longstanding historical connections to Norway.
In fact, as early as 1755 a trading post was established at Serampore/Frederiksnagore – a legacy which is still visible through the Church of St. Olav (1805), Norwegian governor Ole Bie’s residence and paintings of the settlement by another Norwegian governor, Peter Anker. A century later, in 1845, Norway’s first consulate in India was established – this time a little to the South, in the rapidly growing city of Calcutta.
For Bengal and Norway, it is true to say that the sea has served as a link rather than as a divide; Norwegian merchant ships still ply the Bay of Bengal, true to three centuries of historical legacy. But links have not only been related to the sea and a common delight in fish: Bengal’s cultural impact in Norway, and in particular that of Rabindranath Tagore, is another aspect of the common heritage.
The Embassy’s visit to Vishva Bharati at Shanti Niketan offered a glimpse of a multi-talented artist and intellectual with a clear interest for both the local and global issues of the day. Tagore inspired several Norwegian authors, among them Tarjei Vesaas, and visited the Nordic countries three times. Touring Norway in 1926, he met among others H.M. King Haakon VII and polar hero and explorer Fridtjof Nansen.
When India attained independence in 1947, Calcutta was thus one of the central cities for Norway in the Indian subcontinent. West Bengal’s industry was among the most advanced in India.
Keeping this past in mind, there is a large potential for increased trade and commercial activity between Norway and West Bengal today. The impression of a great potential for strengthened contact was also confirmed during meetings with the Government of West Bengal and H.E. the Governor of West Bengal, Keshar Nath Tripathi. (ANI)