Swiss-Indian partnership has withstood geopolitical churn, and grown, for 75 years
I arrived in India in September 2020. It is then that I learnt that the Treaty of Friendship and Establishment between Switzerland and India of 1948 was the first of its kind and one of the very first bilateral agreements concluded by newly independent India. I was surprised that India had chosen Switzerland as one of its first friends.
Today marks 75 years since this treaty was signed. Seven and a half decades of friendship is a milestone that necessitates reflection on our accomplishments. And, even more importantly — and with future generations in mind — an examination of the potential the future holds for this relationship.
It is not my intention to give a detailed list of the achievements of this friendship that has covered areas ranging from vocational training, milk production and manufacturing to collaborations in health, climate and information technology. I will focus on what seems to me to be the most notable aspects of our partnership.
Immediately after India’s independence, Switzerland invested in the people of India — in India’s youth, farmers and workers by setting up vocational training institutions in Chandigarh, milk farmer cooperatives in Kerala, and rail wagon factories in Tamil Nadu. Some of these still exist.
India’s expertise in information technology has been one of the cornerstones of Swiss-Indian relations that has greatly benefitted enterprises in Switzerland, be it to fixing the millennium bug, or more recently to support the
Swiss industry in its march towards digital transformation. One recent collaboration between Swiss and Indian scientists has been the development of Limestone Calcined Clay Cement, a climate-friendly alternative to conventional cement that is responsible for up to 8 per cent of CO2 emissions globally. LC3 is 30-40 per cent less carbon-intensive. It could make a tangible impact in reducing global carbon footprint.
The standards for LC3 were published in the “Gazette of India” in June. This means LC3 can now be used by India’s construction industry. India and Switzerland have together provided a revolutionary new option for the cement industry — with great benefits for global climate. Both countries are making significant contributions when it comes to collaborating to build a sustainable future.
Switzerland is the 12th largest foreign investor in India. Over 330 subsidiaries, joint ventures, branches, and liaison offices of Swiss companies are active in India. A substantial number of them are manufacturing in India and exporting from India. Switzerland is deeply invested in India’s economic growth.
It is remarkable that the friendship between our two nations, despite the shifting geopolitical sands, has grown from strength to strength in these 75 years. While it is not part of my mandate as a diplomat to look into a crystal ball, I hope I may be allowed to make an exception on this auspicious day. Going forward, India will be a country of choice for Swiss companies, researchers, and innovators. The future of Swiss-Indian friendship will be defined by cooperation in three specific areas: Working towards a sustainable future, deepening collaboration in healthcare for global good, and cooperation in technology for the benefit of humanity. Our countries are actively working to establish a Swiss-Indian Innovation Platform that will bring together the best universities in both countries and the best of innovative Swiss and Indian enterprises.
India leads the world when it comes to putting technology to use for the welfare of its citizens. Switzerland ranks number one when it comes to innovation. India takes centre stage as the “pharmacy of the world” while Swiss pharma companies are known for their innovations. The official launch of the Swiss-Indian Innovation Platform in October will therefore focus on one of the most pressing global health risks – Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).
A Free Trade Agreement between the European Free Trade Association (comprising Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) and India is also on the horizon. This game-changer agreement will be a win-win for all sides, not only by way of deeper trade ties, but a posteriori, by way of increased investments and innovation in India and Switzerland. The friendship between countries is based on mutual respect, common interests and shared values. Swiss-Indian friendship is one of the few examples of such time-tested friendships. Seven and half decades of this unalterable bond are nothing short of a “tryst with destiny” moment for our two countries. Both our countries share a common vision and are working towards achieving it for the good of our peoples.
Source: Indian Express