Invest India interviews the Ambassador of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to India
Question 1: What do you feel is the common ground Luxembourg and India share in terms of their culture and economy?
Since the establishment of our diplomatic relations in 1948, both countries have been working together in multilateral for sharing values of democracy, the international rule of law and the desire to secure a culture of peace, understanding and non-violence. As an active founding member of the United Nations, it is no coincidence that the Luxembourg Government offered the sculpture “Non-Violence”, also known as “The Knotted Gun” by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd to the United Nations in 1988. This is a reminder of the message of non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi, one of his core beliefs. Also, to be mentioned in this context, is the beautiful cultural legacy of the modernist Indian artist Amar Nath Sehgal (1922-2007), who set up his studio in the Grand Duchy in 1979 and lived between Luxembourg and India until his return to New Delhi in 2004. Last year, his iconic bronze bust of Bapu, situated in the Municipal Park in the capital, was chosen by the Luxembourg Postal service for a commemorative stamp marking the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi which to this day constitutes a precious link between our countries.
Our close cooperation can be further illustrated by a number of bilateral agreements in various sectors including steel technologies, social security, air services, non-double taxation among others. Many of the Luxembourg companies working in India are contributing to the “Make in India”. Last September, we held our 16th Joint Economic Commission, which offered an excellent occasion to assess the status of these relations and discuss open issues and new projects. This year’s Indian statistics rank Luxembourg 15th among the Foreign Direct Investors in India, which is the best example that our cooperation is successful and continues to be strengthened by the day.
Question 2: India is promoting a mandate called #DigitalIndia. How do you think Luxembourg and India can partner on digital projects such as AI and cybersecurity?
India has undoubtedly one of the most dynamic IT sectors in the world and I am proud to say that it is also one of our main areas of cooperation. To name but a few, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, Wipro, Tech Mahindra, Syncordis, Damco Solutions and Quantum Business Advisory have offices in Luxembourg and have been expanding over the last years and decades. This evolution can also be seen with the increasing number of Schengen visas that our Consulate has been issuing for Indian citizens working in the IT sector, many of whom visit the European Union (EU) for the first time while travelling to the Grand Duchy, a founding member of the EU, located in the heart of Europe. Last year, our consulate ranked number one of all the Luxembourg consulates in terms of issuance of Schengen visas. Schengen being, by the way, a small wine-producing town in the Three-Border-Region, where Luxembourg meets Germany and France, which became synonymous with open borders and free movement since the signature of the Schengen Agreement in 1985.
Luxembourg is a Start-up Gateway to Europe. Launched in 2014, #DigitalLuxembourg is both a uniting force behind the country’s digitalisation movement and one of its biggest allies. Its sectoral activities range from Indutech to eco-innovation technologies to Health tech and the country offers a wide range of initiatives to help kick-start start-up businesses. Allow me to highlight in this context an initiative launched by the Ministry of the Economy in cooperation with the national innovation agency “Luxinnovation”, calling for projects entitled “StartupsVsCovid19”. This initiative is offering support of up to 150,000 EUR for Start-ups to develop innovative technological products and services intended to limit, or even overcome, the economic, health and societal effects of the crisis linked to the pandemic.
Luxembourg’s strategy for data-driven innovation has three focus areas: continuing the investments in the country’s top-notch digital infrastructure, supporting businesses with the adoption of innovative digital technologies and creating a favourable legal and financial environment. The priority sectors of the strategy Industry 4.0 (clean technologies and smart mobility, health technologies, space, logistics and financial services) have information and communication technologies as well as the use of data as their common denominator. They benefit from Luxembourg’s excellent infrastructure for data storage and handling, which includes Europe’s highest concentration of top-rated Tier IV data centres and exceptional connectivity secured by very fast, ultra-low-latency connections.
Widely recognised as a centre of excellence in cybersecurity, the country is at the forefront in fields such as electronic identification and the development of secure data lakes. In order to further boost its capacities to process and extract value from big data, the government is currently investing in a business-oriented peta scale high performance computer (HPC). While most HPCs are pure research centres, Luxembourg will make 65% of its capacity available to companies inside and outside the country. Big data processing is also the basis for developing artificial intelligence (AI), another of Luxembourg’s key focus area. In early 2019, the University of Luxembourg set up the first European partnership with the global AI leader NVIDIA. Rating cooperation with the private sector as a priority, the AI research laboratory conducts high-end, high-value projects in fields such as autonomous driving, neural networks and biomedicine.
Three Indian start-ups have recently participated at the virtual exhibition of the annual #ICTSpring Europe summit in Luxembourg, which offered an excellent platform for the participating startups to display their activities in ICT, Space technologies, Telecom, Internet of Things (IoT), AI, Cybersecurity and Digital Supply Chain.
Question 3: What is the future of Energy and Automotive (Perhaps EVs) with regards to our two countries?
Over the years, Luxembourg has carved a niche in the development of the energy sector and related technologies and our cooperation with India also extends in this sector. The Luxembourg-headquartered company Boson Energy, which provides thermal treatment solutions that produce local clean energy from locally available fuels such as waste and biomass residue, has been selected for the Clean Ganga project. Another Luxembourgish firm, Solarcleano exports solar panel cleaning robots to the Indian market.
Regarding the automotive sector, the Luxembourg Automobility Cluster managed by “Luxinnovation”, fosters innovation, business development and cross-sector cooperation. In India, the Luxembourg company IEE S.A. is developing and manufacturing cutting-edge sensing solutions and are currently expanding their presence in Pune in association with their local partner Quanzen. They have showcased the full range of IEE products at the Auto Expo Components Show in Delhi early February. Another Luxembourg-Indian Joint Venture Amer-Sil Ketex, the leader in its segment in India, based in West Bengal, is producing highly sophisticated gauntlets for the automotive industry not only in India but also for South Asia.
Question 4: Many Indians living in Luxembourg work in the Finance sector; what is the outlook for the sector in Luxembourg?
Indeed, the number of Indians living and working in the Grand Duchy continues to increase. This year the Indian community increased by 20.5% in comparison to 2019 and ranks today 14th among the foreign nationals compared to 27th in 2015. As you rightly say, many of the Indian citizens work in IT, FinTech and finance but also in steel, satellites, automotive and manufacturing.
With the current pandemic, the financial sector as well as the economy have deeply suffered and this is particularly the case for a small landlocked country with an open economy. As early as 25 March, the government had taken a number of strong measures and launched a massive economic stabilization programme, which has been called one of the most generous in the world. Some of the measures helped companies to maintain employment, provide cash flow and facilitate bank loans, while others supported start-ups or boosted local tourism with the distribution of 50€ accommodation vouchers to every resident.
Despite the crisis, the major rating agencies have re-confirmed Luxembourg’s “AAA” rating. Fitch recently welcomed its “robust institutional framework”. Over 50 years of experience, currently places the Grand Duchy among the top 3 financial centers in the European Union and the number one investment Fund center in Europe and the second globally. Luxembourg is responsible for 58% of cross-border fund AuM.
Today Luxembourg is the second greenest financial center in the world. Following the COP21, the Luxembourg Stock Exchange (LuxSE) created the Luxembourg Green Exchange (LGX) in 2016, the world’s first and leading platform dedicated exclusively to sustainable financial instruments. In January, I welcomed the CEO of LuxSE as well as the Founder of LGX in Delhi who both intervened at the “Raisina Dialogue” and held a number of highly interesting meetings, and these contacts which have flourished over the last months. India is increasingly oriented towards sustainable finance and Luxembourg is a front-runner in this field. Green bonds and sustainable investment projects are the future and we welcome the process giving Indian companies easier access to international markets. The LuxSE, the global leader in debt securities listings among others, has for more than two decades been cooperating with the Bombay Stock Exchange and is currently deepening its relations with the India International Exchange and the State Bank of India.
The country ranks 1st worldwide for finance connectivity, 2nd for services connectivity, it has the 4th most globalized economy and ranks 8th in the global talent competitiveness index. The economy and the financial sector count on a highly skilled and talented multilingual workforce, which is one of the strengths of the Grand Duchy. In December, I welcomed the Deputy CEO of “Luxembourg for Finance”, the national agency for the development of the financial center, who visited Delhi and Bengaluru and we recently co-organised a FinTech webinar with the colleagues of the “Luxembourg House of FinTech (LHoFT)” and the BLBA in Delhi. Luxembourg was the first non-Asian country to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and hosted the 4th Annual Meeting outside Asia in July 2019. There is thus a lot we can build on, as we seek to further strengthen our historically strong bilateral relations.
Question 5: India has a blossoming Space-Tech industry, but it is still behind Luxembourg. What are the best practices of the sector in Luxembourg?
Innovation has always been high on our successive governments’ agendas not only as a means to stimulate the competitiveness in the industry but also as a foundation of the country’s economic development. In 1985, the government took the audacious decision to back the newly founded satellite operator SES, Société européenne des satellites, which over the decades developed into a global leader in the sector. SES has been partnering with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for many years and is currently operating 5 satellites over India.
As part of its economic diversification, the government took the active decision to become a leading player in the space industry. The launch of the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) in 2018 following the SpaceResources.lu initiative in 2016, created an environment enabling companies to research and invest in space ventures, with the aim of making them both economically viable and environmentally sustainable. Today, Luxembourg hosts over 60 companies, public and private, active in the space sector. A wide range of international companies, space agencies, universities and research institutes nurture this dynamic and future oriented sector.
In April, LSA became a member of the prestigious International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG), a group of 22 space agencies coordinating the future of space exploration. The LSA Data Center, created in 2018, is a key element of the Space Agency’s strategy to broaden access to space-related data. We are proud to say that it offers reliable, fast and intuitive access to some of the data streams from the European Copernicus Earth Observation programme.
Early September, the first performance microsatellite, produced and assembled by LuxSpace, was launched and the Luxembourg based company Kleos Space S.A. is planning to launch four Kleos scouting nano-satellites from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in a scouting mission conducted by ISRO. In addition, Indian experts attended the Interdisciplinary Space Master at the University of Luxembourg, a cooperation which is set to grow.
Question 6: Where do you see India-Luxembourg relations ten years down the line?
Looking back, our bilateral relations started in 1929, with the opening of the first Vice-consulate in Bombay. The development of our economic and trade relations led to the opening of this first consulate in India followed by the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1948. In the mid-19th century, Luxembourg ranked among the world’s six largest steel producers and it is no coincidence that the merger of Arcelor and Mittal Steel in 2006 led to the world’s leading steel and mining company headquartered in the Grand Duchy. Since its takeover of Essar, AMNS continues to strongly develop its presence in India.
During several decades of friendship and cooperation, illustrated by previous examples, there have furthermore been countless high-level bilateral visits, ranging from the State visit of the Hon’ble President and Mrs. K.R. Narayanan in Luxembourg in September 1998 or the Official visit of the Hon’ble Vice-president Dr. Radhakrishnan in 1956 to the recent 4th visit of the current Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg, the Dean of European Foreign ministers, to Delhi last January, following the visit of the late Minister of External Affairs, Smt. Sushma Swaraj to Luxembourg in June 2018.
We rely on an excellent network of Honorary Consuls in Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai and we are in the process of opening a new Consulate in Bengaluru.
But where are our bilateral relations heading to during the next decade? The figures talk for themselves: 1st Luxembourg Consulate in the delivery of Schengen visas in our network, 15th FDI in 2020, in 2022 we are going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the opening of the resident Embassy in New Delhi and in 2023, the 75th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations.
Some of our companies present in India continue to expand rapidly and some have been active in India for more than two decades: Paul Wurth, a leading player in the design and supply of technological solutions in the primary stage of integrated steelmaking, has been present in India since 1993. Ceratizit, based in Karnataka and West Bengal, provides hard cutting materials for different industries, Rotarex in Mumbai exports high performance valves, regulators and fittings for all gas applications and Tractel Secalt, also based in Mumbai provides state of the art lifting facilities for building projects and maintenance services for skyscrapers. Then there are Bejimac which exports machines and equipment’s to the textile Industry and the Luxembourg based pioneer in the medical equipment industry, B Medical Systems, has recently partnered with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in the storage of critical Covid-19 vaccines to the BYL Nair Charitable Hospital in Mumbai. Not to forget the cooperation between the Luxembourg wine producer Bernard Massard and Hema Connoisseur Collection to important wines and sparkling wines from the Luxembourg Moselle.
I limit myself to these few examples, which I choose to highlight as they are a beautiful example of the strength of our very diverse bilateral relations which will continue to flourish and progress in the years to come.