Norway’s commitment to health in India has contributed to an increased focus on maternal and child health. Child mortality in one of the world’s most populous countries has been reduced by 46 per cent since 1990.

Facts about India

The flag for India
Life expectancy
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GNI pr capita
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Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
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The flag for India

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

With 1.24 billion inhabitants, India is the third largest economy in the world, but buying power is very unevenly distributed among people. Approximately one-third of all Indians live below the poverty line, despite vigorous economic growth in the past ten years.

India has become an increasingly important global actor. A growing service sector and a large, young, English-speaking workforce make India interesting for businesses in many countries, including Norway. The country adopts an active role in the international arena, for example in the World Trade Organization (WTO), climate negotiations and as a large contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations. At the same time, the country’s economic ambitions have global consequences for energy consumption, environment and climate.

In the spring of 2014 the world’s largest democracy held elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a clear majority and has formed a coalition government with Narendra Modi as prime minister. Expectations of increased economic growth, more jobs and a new political course contributed to a high voter turnout (67 per cent), particularly among young voters.

Norwegian development cooperation with India:

The Government’s strategy for cooperation with India from 2009 sets out guidelines for Norwegian support and has the following goals:

  • Cooperation on international policy issues
  • Cooperation on climate change, environmental and clean energy issues
  • Increased economic dealings and investments in India
  • Cooperation on research and higher education.


Commitment to global health issues is important in Norwegian foreign and development policy, and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals represent a central pillar of this commitment. One in four children who die before they reach the age of five lives in India, and 900,000 newborns die each year. What India achieves in terms of health is therefore important to enable the world to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 on reduction of maternal and child mortality by 2015.

Since 2005, India has increased its political and economic focus on the health sector. The proportion of GDP spent on the public health service is still low (around 1.5 per cent), but the government is working to find more funds. This effort has yielded results in that child mortality has halved since 1990 and maternal mortality has been reduced by 40 per cent since 2000.

Norway and India entered into a partnership to reduce child mortality, with a particular focus on the neonatal period in the four states with the highest maternal and child mortality: Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan. The Norway India Partnership Initiative for Maternal and Child Health (NIPI) tests new methods and technology to improve the services. The goal is that the effort will trigger greater and lasting commitment by Indian authorities to reduce mortality.

An evaluation from 2013 of the first six years of cooperation has concluded that the partnership provides more added value to India’s commitment to women and children. The cooperation has contributed to a reduction in infant mortality in all the states in which the work is being undertaken, and NIPI has helped to place neonatal health on the national agenda. Phase 2 of the partnership began in 2013 with a budget of NOK 250 million over five years.

Some results:

  • Based on NIPI’s model the authorities have established 500 neonatal intensive care units at district hospitals in 18 prioritized states
  • 600,000 premature and sick infants receive treatment every year
  • Based on NIPI’s model 800,000 health activists are now being trained to conduct home visits in the child’s first weeks of life to promote breastfeeding and vaccination and thereby help to reduce child mortality
  • NIPI’s model for nursing and midwifery training has become a national standard.

 The Norway India Partnership Initiative (NIPI) aims to provide catalytic and strategic support to India's national effort under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) to reach MDG 4 - reduce child mortality.

Energy, environment and climate change

The combination of a large population, rapid urbanization and economic growth makes for increased pollution and emissions from industry, traffic and households. To meet these challenges, Norway’s support to India’s effort to combat climate change includes broad cooperation on research.

The energy situation is challenging, in terms of security of supply (3/4 of India’s petroleum need is imported), climate-change profile (55 per cent of the country’s electricity is from coal power) and access (400 million Indians live without electricity). According to the country’s five-year plan for 2012‒2017, energy production is to increase by 70 per cent. This means an increase in expansion of all forms of energy, and the proportion from renewable sources is expected to rise.

The agreement with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is a flagship of the institutional cooperation between Norway and India. The head of the institute is Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, who also heads the UN Panel on Climate Change and received the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Al Gore in 2007.

This cooperation is an important platform for e.g. developing business ideas for the use of clean energy such as solar, wind and hydropower. TERI also contributes to the work of several of India’s working groups under the national action plan for climate change.

The cooperation between SINTEF in Trondheim and the Indian Institute of Petroleum has been ongoing for a decade. Work with carbon capture from power stations and technology transfer in the use of waste as fuel in e.g. the cement industry has great potential for India, the world’s second largest cement producer.

India is the world’s second largest producer of rice after China. These two countries together produce more than half of the global rice supply. Climate change is already a challenge for rice production. To ensure its population access to food in the future, India must discover a way to deal with the challenge of climate change. Norway supports research on adaptation to climate change with a particular focus on two areas: food security and natural disaster prevention.

A cooperation has been initiated on adaptation strategies for agriculture in drought-affected states, and the collaboration between Bioforsk and leading institutions in India has produced textbooks, technical articles and student assignments. Rice farmers have also contributed their knowledge and experience. New methods that save water are now being tested on 35,000 hectares of land and encompass 800 farms.

Norway supports the World Bank’s multi-donor trust fund the South Asia Water Initiative for increased coordination between the countries surrounded by the Himalayan water reserves.

In the environmental field it is natural to highlight the cooperation between the Norwegian Environment Agency and the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) in Chennai, whereby two important institutions are collaborating on the establishment of a centre that will help to strengthen the national and international legal and political framework for biodiversity. The Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law is singled out by politicians and others, both in India and Norway, as an important future-oriented initiative.

Higher education and research

Higher education and research are becoming increasingly important in the cooperation between Norway and India. Half of India’s population is under the age of 25, and higher education is a goal for many. Over the past ten years, increased research collaboration has resulted in a strong increase in international co-publishing by Norwegian and Indian researchers – particularly in priority areas such as climate change, energy and environment, but also in physics and mathematics.

The Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU) and the Norwegian Research Council cooperate with Indian partners on how best to promote higher education and research between our two countries.

The bilateral research cooperation with India builds upon a separate agreement from 2006. During a visit to India the previous year, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg established a cooperation with regard to child vaccines. This has been expanded to include animal vaccines and especially fish vaccines.

The India strategy of 2009 placed global challenges such as climate change high on the agenda, and India and Norway agreed on a programme of cooperation in 2009 that defines the content of the research cooperation. Key topics are climate, energy, environment, marine/polar research, vaccines, nanotechnology and geotechnology. In 2011 the agenda was expanded to include ICT, medical research and social effects of climate change.

In order to encourage the research communities, funds were earmarked for a Norwegian Research Council programme on cooperation with India (INDNOR). The programme, which extends over ten years (2010‒2019), has a total budget of NOK 200 million.

Women and equality

There is an Indian law which ensures a 50 per cent quota of women on municipal executive boards. In conjunction with the UN organization UN Women Norway supports various measures to promote women’s participation in politics throughout South Asia. The total Norwegian grant for the project amounts to NOK 60 million over a three-year period. 

The goal is to build knowledge among elected women representatives and establish regional centres for capacity building for political elected offices for South Asian women. The Indian part of the project is run in cooperation with The Hunger Project and The National Institute for Rural Development (NIRD). Women are trained in laws and statutory rights, and form a fellowship of women for mutual support.


India is a culturally rich nation. Norway prioritizes support to contemporary culture, including for the development of arenas for young artists and dancers. This commitment favours in particular modern dance, contemporary art, theatre, literature and music.  

Since 2002 the Norwegian Embassy has cooperated with Concerts Norway. The exchange between musicians has enhanced competence and connected Norwegian and Indian musical traditions more closely together. Concerts Norway emphasizes interactive musical performance and has a great influence on how music is communicated to Indian schoolchildren. The core of the collaboration covers broad exchange progammes for musicians to give school concerts, music workshops and festivals, and supports arenas for various types of modern music. 

Between 2008 and 2013 the collaboration reached an audience of approximately 310,000 people in Norway, and around 800 participated in workshops, creating cultural and musical understanding across national borders.

The Norwegian Embassy also supports the Seagull School of Publishing which is the only academy in India to offer teaching in publishing in a global market. Between 2011 and 2014 more than 70 students have completed the course at the newly established school. All of them have found relevant jobs following the course, and three students have started their own publishing houses, including in indigenous languages. An external review concludes that the school offers a high quality of education.

Through several of its cooperation partners the Norwegian Embassy has contributed to making modern culture such as dance and the visual and performing arts accessible to a wider public. These art forms have strengthened their position and developed a wider network, and are increasingly recognized by Indian authorities as important contributors to a modern India.

Aid effectiveness

India is an example of how development aid has changed from a focus on direct service delivery to a way in which countries themselves can achieve their development goals through inclusive economic growth.

Health, democracy and human rights are important topics in Norwegian development cooperation with India, and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals represent a central pillar in this effort. We prioritize professional and institutional collaboration in areas in which Norway has the required competence and experience, and for which pilot projects and models of cooperation are also relevant beyond India’s borders.

On the Indian side, even though in relative terms the aid does not have great economic significance, it is considered that it can be an important catalyst in sectors at both central and local level, and can help to underpin the institutional cooperation through joint working groups. The basis lies in common values, shared understanding of the need for effective international cooperation, and in the importance of India’s participation to achieve workable solutions to regional and global challenges.

Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 16.02.2015