"The connections of democracy, lively voice of the people and leveraging the best of cultural and human diversity is what makes the India and Switzerland old and good friends."
Newly independent India and Switzerland entered into a Friendship Treatyexternal link on August 14, 1948 that was signed by the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Swiss ambassador to India Armin Daeniker.
Besides promising “perpetual peace and unalterable friendship” the treaty also granted Swiss citizens and businesses the right to ply their trade in India at an uncertain time. Today, the Treaty has become a talisman of historically good ties between the two nations. Opinion is divided over whether it is a gesture of friendship or made to appear as one to serve the needs of diplomats, politicians and businesses.end of infobox
When India was born, its leaders were drawn to the ideals of peace and neutrality– two words that are entrenched within the Swiss heartbeat. This led to the signing of the acts of friendships between India and Switzerland in 1948, the first of its kind. Yes, we know it was motivated by the need to set up diplomatic relations and to engage in commerce but the act still stands strong.
Take me for example. I came to Geneva in 2010 as a student, wanting to learn about international affairs from the seat of international organisations. Our building was in the heart of “International Geneva”, next to the World Trade Organization and the UNICEF building, and opposite the UN Palais des Nations. I was the only Indian participant on my course, among 28 participants from 26 nations. My search for Indo-Swiss engagement found its ethos: “India defines diversity and Switzerland welcomes global diversity”.
My Swiss sojourn defined me by inculcating the values of trust, transparency and standardisation of processes. I was trained in small arms under the standardised guidelines on a shooting range in Switzerland, as my dissertation was on disarmament strategies of small arms and light weapons in South Sudan. Only on Swiss soil, was I able to meet two North Korean military officers, play volleyball with them and later discuss household chores.
Geneva, where I lived, is the melting pot of 108 nationalities living in complete harmony, and made me believe in the common happiness of the heart. As an Indian, I was always treated like a brother by Afghanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Nepalese and the Pakistanis and enjoyed complimentary desserts at my favourite Pakistani restaurant. It was heart-warming to experience cultural integration with my geographical neighbours outside South Asia.
I found the Swiss support of neutrality and freedom of speech in discussions at the UN on human rights violations and urban conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka. I could also get away from global conflicts and find peace on a trek in the lap of the protective Alps.
The theme of the celebrations of 70 years of the friendship treaty is “Connecting Minds”. This is most important in widening horizons, embracing a colourful spectrum of ideas and sharing the very fabric of diversity and inclusiveness that India and Switzerland stand for. The connections of democracy, lively voice of the people and leveraging the best of cultural and human diversity is what makes the India and Switzerland old and good friends.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch.
swissinfo.ch publishes op-ed articles by contributors writing on a wide range of topics – Swiss issues or those that impact Switzerland. The selection of articles presents a diversity of opinions designed to enrich the debate on the issues discussed.end of infobox