Switzerland seeks closer ties with India
Switzerland is looking to promote closer collaboration with India in the technology and science sectors.
The Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, is due to sign an agreement with his Indian counterpart, Abdul Kalam, during a whistle-stop tour of India later this week.
Couchepin’s first stop is the city of Bangalore, the centre of India’s computer industry, where he is due to attend a seminar along with representatives from Indian and Swiss technology institutes.
They are hoping to find common ground in the field of technology and negotiate the basis for several technological projects.
“We expect to find agreement on the exchange of students and professors, as well as cooperation in scientific projects,” said Charles Kleiber, state secretary for science and research.
Kleiber added that the long-term goal of the initiative was to set up a Swiss-Indian research centre, which is to be funded by both governments.
Switzerland is planning to fund the project to the tune of SFr1 million ($750,000) annually, and New Delhi has reportedly agreed to invest a similar amount in the projects, which focus on information technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology.
After visiting Madras and Hyderabad, the Swiss president is expected to hold talks with President Kalam and the Indian prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, in New Delhi.
Couchepin and his Indian counterpart are due to sign a bilateral agreement on scientific cooperation between the two countries.
Rodolphe Imhoof, head of the Asia section at the Swiss foreign ministry, believes that both countries could benefit from such an agreement.
“Closer cooperation with India in the technology sector also offers good perspectives for the Swiss economy. India is already an important economic partner for Switzerland,” he said.
According to the Swiss foreign ministry, trade with India amounts to SFr1.2 billion a year, and Switzerland is the sixth-biggest European investor in India.
Couchepin is also due to sign an agreement to ensure Swiss aid workers are deployed more efficiently in the event of natural disasters in India.
Swiss aid workers have been at the forefront during past disasters. After the devastating earthquake in Gujarat in January 2001, Swiss rescue personnel were the first to arrive in affected areas.
Couchepin’s trip to India is the first state visit by a Swiss president since 1998 when president Flavio Cotti travelled to New Delhi.
swissinfo with agencies
More than one billion people live in India and about half of the country’s population is younger than 25 years.
The Indian economy has posted an excellent average growth rate of 6% since 1990, reducing poverty by about ten percentage points
India’s development fund amounts to $1.6 million and it funds development projects in Asia and Africa.
India is a major exporter of software services and software workers.
India’s inflation rate is currently at 3.7%.
The trade volume between India and Switzerland amounts to SFr1.2 billion per year.
The last state visit was by the Swiss president, Falvio Cotti, in 1998.
Switzerland’s exports to India amounted to SFr650 million in 2001.
Switzerland’s main export goods to India are machines and electrical goods.
India’s main exports to Switzerland are textiles, chemicals and gems.
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