Switzerland has underscored its commitment to fight poverty in India, at an annual conference organised by the Swiss Development Agency in Basel.This content was published on August 24, 2001 - 16:22
The government has been reviewing its annual aid policy and evaluating future projects.
The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, told conference delegates that the cooperation between Switzerland and India had "much to offer both sides."
"Despite the differences between our two countries," Deiss said, "many similarities exist between the oldest and largest democracies in the world."
The Swiss government contributes more than SFr30 million annually in development aid to India, a country with a population 150 times larger than that of Switzerland.
Oscar Knapp, head of development aid at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, said Switzerland had made an "important contribution to the economic development of the country."
The reduction by half in the number of low-income households on the Indian subcontinent over the last decade, argued Knapp, proved that the agency's work had had a significant effect in alleviating poverty.
Swiss aid to India is primarily used to finance the promotion of small businesses as well as for the development of a national transport infrastructure.
"What is the point of producing goods, if there is no chance of them reaching potential customers because of poor transportation?" Knapp asked his audience at the conference.
Rudolf Dannecker, vice-director of the agency, said Switzerland's task in India was to help reduce the gap between rich and poor.
"Our mission...is to do all we can to improve the situation of women in India, to fight against discrimination and facilitate better access to health services, legal aid and training programmes," Dannecker added.
swissinfo with agencies