Three Indian prime ministers visited Sweden before Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi started his foreign tour on Monday, April 16, with a visit to Sweden, a Scandinavian country, to be a part of the first India-Nordic summit.
Modi, however, is not the first Indian prime minister to set his foot in the country which is known for its moralistic approaches. Before him, Jawarharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had visited the country. India's diplomatic relation with Sweden was built strongly since 1949 and common belief in democratic values and the pursuit of neutrality away from Cold War rivalry brought New Delhi and Stockholm closer in the past.
Nehru visited Sweden in 1957
India's relations with Sweden became very close after Alva Myrdal, the Nobel Prize-winning Swedish politician and peace activist was appointed as Sweden's ambassador to India in 1955. It was during her stay in India that Nehru had visited Sweden (1957) and former Swedish prime minister Tage Erlander had visited India (1959).
Nehru's quest for social welfare and global peace had cemented his friendship with Myrdal and it helped the bilateral ties of the two countries.
Myrdal was conferred the Nobel prize in 1982 for her contribution towards nuclear disarmament in the United Nations and she paid tributes to Nehru's ideals serving as inspiration for her to conduct her work.
Indira visited Sweden in 1972
In 1972, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi visited Stockholm to take part in the UN Conference on Human Environment. She also found an ally in her Swedish counterpart Olof Palme in condemning the Vietnam War and worked together against Apartheid in South Africa.
Unlike India, Sweden is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but that hasn't prevented them from working towards a world free of nuclear weapons.
In May 1984, Indira Gandhi and Palme were joined by the heads of the state of Mexico, Greece, Argentina and Tanzania to begin the Five Continent Six Nation Initiative that led to the 1988 Action Plan for a Nuclear Weapons-Free and Nonviolent World Order.
Rajiv visited Sweden in 1988
After Indira's assassination in October 1984, Rajiv Gandhi joined the group as India's representative and became a member of the Palme Commission to look after the disarmament issues. Palme visited India in January 1986 to take part in the Six Nation Initiative but was assassinated in his own country the very next month. Rajiv Gandhi called it a loss of a good friend and also declared a day of mourning in India.
The assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Olof Palme in less than two years were a blow to the growing relation between India and Sweden in fields of peace and development.
India's relation with Sweden also saw its darker side in the wake of the Bofors arms scandal but according to a declassified CIA report of 1988, the Swedish authorities had stopped probe into the alleged bribery in the howitzer deal to save Rajiv Gandhi, who was the prime minister then, from embarrassment.
The report said the investigation was ended towards the end of January 1988, soon after Rajiv paid his visit to the Nordic country.
However, Rajiv Gandhi could not survive the scandal at home, losing the general elections in 1989 to see the end of his Congress party's dominance in Indian politics.