Indians in Sweden For Members

Indians in Sweden: 75 years of diplomatic relations show it's all about the people

Manu Uniyal
Manu Uniyal - [email protected]
Indians in Sweden: 75 years of diplomatic relations show it's all about the people
People walking through Malmö, left, and Mumbai. Photo: Johan Nilsson & Leif R Jansson/TT

How can Indians and Swedes benefit from the diplomatic relationship, how many Indians are in Sweden's top one percent of earners, and much more in The Local's monthly newsletter for Indians in Sweden.



2023 sees Sweden and India celebrate 75 years of formal diplomatic relations. But, what we are really celebrating is the centuries long bonhomie between Swedes and Indians. Ultimately, relations between any two nations are all about you and me – the common people, the real ambassadors of a country.

Today, Sweden and India relations are perhaps the best they have ever been. This is visible not least in the numerous collaborations and partnerships between the two countries, but also by a growing Swedish-Indian diaspora which successfully contributes to Swedish society and the economy.

To fully understand the present and unlock the true future potential of this fast-paced relation, let us get some context and look at the past connections between Sweden and India. Not to make it a history lecture, I will just skim the surface, touching upon some interesting milestones.

A sixth-century, 8.4 centimetre Buddha statuette from Northern India discovered at Helgö near Stockholm at a Viking archaeological dig in 1954 is the first known historical linkage between Sweden and India.

In business terms, the Swedish East India Company began trading with India in the 1700s. But Mr Joseph Stephens, a railway contractor with the Great Indian Peninsula Railway during the 1860s was perhaps the first Swedish entrepreneur to make a fortune in India.

In 1903, Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson got its first order from India. In 1923, the tobacco company Swedish Match and ball-bearing makers SKF also started operations in India.

Culturally, in 1913 Rabindranath Tagore received the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was the first Indian and non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize.


Post-1947, when India became independent, Sweden and India came together on many international issues like nuclear disarmament, anti-apartheid, world peace, the six-nation peace initiative. But the one that deserves a special mention is the environment – the most pertinent and persistent subject of the present times.

The 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm was the world's first conference to make the environment a major global issue. Sweden hosted it and India participated with a delegation led by the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Both countries showed remarkable far-sightedness by realising not only the importance of preserving the environment but also designing progress of people in harmony with the environment.

In 2022, at the Stockholm+50 conference, once again India was represented by a big ministerial delegation led by the environment minister of India, Mr Bhupender Yadav. Today India and Sweden are working together on various green projects like LeadIt, Solar Alliance and so on.

A Venn diagram showing the changing trends of the Sweden-India relations over the years and some of the reasons causing those changes. By: Manu Uniyal

Relations between the two countries have accelerated unprecedentedly since the new Indian government took office in 2014.

Many Indian government initiatives like Make in India, India-Sweden Innovation Partnership for a Sustainable Future, Polar Research, Arctic Council and Space, India-Sweden Innovations' Accelerator have spawned successes in sectors ranging from research and development to manufacturing.

India is one of the top non-EU import and export trading partners for Sweden. Sweden and India are also signatories to many different treaties, like the agreement for avoidance of double taxation and prevention of tax evasion.

India-Sweden economic relations have grown rapidly in recent years. Today, trade and commerce figures hover around $5 billion. India is the third largest trading partner for Sweden in Asia.

Around 250 Swedish companies are present in India, enjoing the fruits of a growing Indian economy. Indian companies are relatively new entrants in Sweden. Around 75 Indian companies are present in Sweden, growing successfully in sectors like IT, automotive, pharma, bio refinery, power transmission, AI, space et cetera.

Political engagements grew steadily since 1948, then skyrocketed in recent years. There have been more high-level visits between India and Sweden in the past decade than in the 67 years between 1947 and 2014.

Increasing numbers of Swedes and Indians are travelling to each other's countries for business and pleasure. In 2020 India was among the top ten countries of origin among international overnight tourists in Sweden by number of nights spent. India and the US were the only non-EU countries in the top ten.


So what does this translate into for us, the people?

It means more opportunities for collaboration and creating innovative solutions to many of the global problems. This will lead to an economic ecosystem where many jobs will be created both for Swedes and Indians, allowing them and their future generations to achieve a good quality of life.

But the success of this economic ecosystem will depend on how well Swedes and Indians can work together. To be able to fully capitalise on this potential, both Indians and Swedes will need to integrate with each other as well as they can.

And to do that, we need to be open to learning about each other's cultures, traditions, values, idiosyncrasies and redefine our knowledge base about each other. If we can do that, then the future of Sweden-India relations looks brighter than ever. And knowing how both the Swedes and Indians aspire to the same goals, with some hard work it is certainly possible.

Sweden and India relations after 75 years of international geopolitical ups and downs are stronger than ever, because at the core of those relations, it has always been about "our" interests – the people of the two countries.

Best wishes,



The Local would like to thank Manu Uniyal for contributing to this month's newsletter. Manu is a consultant and writer based in Sweden, working in the areas of India-Nordic geo-politics and economics, innovation and startups.

Here's what The Local has been writing about for Indians in Sweden:

How many Indians are in Sweden's top 1% of earners?

You need an annual income of just over 1.2 million kronor (roughly 9.7 million rupee) to be in Sweden's top one percent of earners, according to a new report based on the highest incomes in 2021. How many Indians in Sweden belong to this group? Exactly 528 people, it turns out.

How many Indians live in Gothenburg?

This month The Local reported that Sweden's second-largest city, Gothenburg, grew by more than 3,700 people in 2023, passing the 600,000 people milestone in May.

According to number-crunchers Statistics Sweden, 9,392 people born in India lived in Gothenburg in 2022, including 3,974 women and 5,418 men.

A special hello to you if you're one of them!

Academics in uproar after Sweden cancels research funding

Sweden's government last month cancelled further funding for development research at just one week's notice, angering researchers who saw months spent writing applications go to waste. 

The Local spoke to Indian researcher Ashok Swain, head of the Peace and Conflict department at Uppsala University, about what the decision means for Sweden's international image.


Help us update our recommendations for Indians in Sweden

In 2019 we published a series of articles with recommendations on where in Sweden to find the best of various cultures, including this one about Indian culture.

With the help of readers we listed where to find the spices and ghee to make an authentic meal at home, or events centred on Indian culture. 

But the article is now a few years old, so it may not be up to date. It's high time to update it, so if you know of any restaurants, businesses or organisations that should be added to this list, please let us know at [email protected]

Indian events in Sweden

Are you organising an event for Indians in Sweden? Email us and we'll share the details in our next newsletter. Please note that the next issue will be out in mid-August, so we won't be able to publicise events taking place before that.

This newsletter for Indians in Sweden is available to paying members of The Local. To receive it in your inbox every month, update your newsletter settings here.

Would you like to guest edit a future edition of The Local's Indians in Sweden newsletter? Get in touch with The Local's editor at [email protected].


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also