India is one of Switzerland’s principal partners in Asia. Bilateral and political contacts between the two countries are under constant development. Trade is on the increase, as is scientific cooperation. “Our bilateral relations date back to the time of Indian independence and have developed steadily ever since. These relations are excellent, fruitful and friendly”, Mrs. Calmy-Rey pointed out in her address delivered in the Parliament building’s Wandelhalle.
The Swiss and Indian delegations then held bilateral talks led by the President of the Confederation and Her Excellency Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil. This meeting was also attended by the Indian Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Shri Rajeev Shukla and Swiss Federal Councillors Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, Doris Leuthard, Ueli Maurer, Didier Burkhalter and Johann Schneider-Ammann. The discussions covered various topics of mutual interest, such as cooperation in economic and financial matters. In fact, the delegations signed a Memorandum of Understanding on conducting a dialogue on financial issues. The aim of this dialogue is to develop a special relationship and regular contact with a view to strengthening cooperation in this field between India and Switzerland.
Again at the bilateral level, the delegations discussed cooperation in the areas of science and technology. Switzerland and India have just agreed to fund eleven new joint research projects in the fields of materials science and nanotechnology, on the one hand, and health sciences, on the other. Since 2008, no fewer than 34 research projects, 84 exchange scholarships and four institutional partnerships have been co-funded on an equal basis by the two countries, representing an investment of around CHF 11 million on the Swiss side.
The issue of climate change was also raised during these talks. As part of its global programme, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is supporting India’s efforts to combat climate change. In particular, one new project is concerned with the energy efficiency of buildings. The delegations also discussed the free-trade agreement currently being negotiated between India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Finally, various issues of international importance were raised, such as reform of the UN Security Council and international cooperation in matter of security and fight against criminality. This first day of the visit was scheduled to end with an official dinner at the Bernerhof organised by the Federal Council in honour of the Indian Head of State and her husband, Dr. Devisingh Ramsingh Shekhawat.
On the second day of this State Visit, the Indian delegation, accompanied by Mrs. Calmy-Rey, will be meeting representatives of the Swiss and Indian business communities in Bern. Relations with India are a priority of Swiss economic foreign policy, India being one of Switzerland’s four principal trading partners in Asia. The volume of trade between Switzerland and India has increased by roughly 180 per cent since the year 2000, and today is worth more than CHF 3,5 billion.
As seventh-ranking importer of Indian goods, Switzerland accounts for an annual trading surplus of well over one billion francs vis-à-vis India. With direct investment of around CHF 1.1 billion (2010), and 170 subsidiaries and joint ventures involving Swiss companies, Switzerland is the eleventh-ranking foreign investor in India.
Following their meetings in Bern, the Swiss and Indian delegations will travel to the Canton of Vaud and, at the University of Lausanne, be welcomed by Mrs. Anne-Catherine Lyon, State Councillor responsible for training and youth, Professor Dominique Arlettaz, Rector of the University of Lausanne, and Professor François Rosset, Dean of Humanities. On this occasion, Mrs. Devisingh Patil and Mrs. Calmy-Rey will assist at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Indian Studies between the University of Lausanne and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
The State Visit will end with a cruise on Lake Geneva. The most recent previous visit by an Indian Head of State was in 2005. Mrs. Calmy-Rey last visited India in August 2010, as Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), within the scope of an official visit. On that occasion, she signed a protocol on a Dual Taxation Agreement (DTA) and officially announced the opening of a Swiss Consulate General in the city of Bangalore, the location of a special unit set up to promote cooperation in the field of scientific research (swissnex).
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