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Swiss-Indian relations to get boost

APJ Kalam (third from left) was received with full military honours in Bern

(Keystone)

India and Switzerland want to increase scientific cooperation and boost bilateral trade.

That’s one of the main results of an official two-day state visit to Switzerland by Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam, which wrapped up on Saturday.

Kalam called for more cooperation in science and technology between the two countries.

"We have to establish direct channels between Indian and Swiss partners," he told a news conference in the Swiss capital, Bern, on Friday.

Swiss President Samuel Schmid said both countries could build on close bilateral relations.

"We have to increase efforts and strengthen existing ties," he said.

Last week the Swiss government announced plans to boost relations with the United States, India and China.

India is currently Switzerland's eighth largest trading partner in Asia with exports totalling SFr1.02 billion ($0.83 billion) in 2004. Imports reached SFr548 million.

Visa regulations

Schmid also said Switzerland was interested in easing visa regulations for Indians wishing to travel to Switzerland.

"We are very happy about the growing number of Indian tourists and Indian film productions in our country. But changes to the law take time," he added.

Switzerland currently has only two consulates in Delhi and Mumbai and critics have complained about complicated visa application procedures.

Both leaders praised the long-standing friendship between the two democracies. Official ties between India and Switzerland date back to 1948, when the newly independent state of India signed its first friendship treaty with Switzerland.

Earlier on Friday Kalam was received with full military honours in front of the parliament building in Bern and met the entire Swiss cabinet.

He held talks with Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, Economics Minster Joseph Deiss and Justice Minister Christoph Blocher.

Science and technology

Kalam arrived in Switzerland on Wednesday ahead of the official two-day state visit.

The man, who is known as the father of the Indian missile programme, visited the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, Cern, in Geneva as well as the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne.

His stay in Switzerland is the first by an Indian head of state since VV Giri in 1970.

Kalam’s visit is part of a two-week tour of Europe, including Russia, Ukraine and Iceland.

On Saturday he finished his trip by taking in some of Switzerland’s tourist attractions.

The physicist first visited Albert Einstein’s former home in Bern. It was exactly 100 years ago in this modest apartment that Einstein churned out some of his most significant physics papers.

Kalam then travelled to the Bernese Oberland region – popular scenery for India’s world-famous Bollywood film industry.

Kalam later returned to Bern to meet the authorities and listen to a concert in the cathedral. Full military honours were given to him before he left.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

APJ Abdul Kalam is the first Indian head of state to visit Switzerland since VV Giri in 1970.
The Swiss interior minister, Pascal Couchepin, visited India when he was Swiss president in 2003.
Three other Swiss government ministers have travelled to India since 1998.

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