Switzerland’s good, close and dynamic relations with India are reflected in a large number of agreements and treaties and also in frequent, high-ranking diplomatic visits. Economic and scientific cooperation are becoming more important.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
India is one of Switzerland’s main partners in Asia and there are regular high-level meetings between the two countries. Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, visited India in May 2015. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid Mr Schneider-Ammann an official visit in Geneva in June 2016, during his presidency of the Swiss Confederation. Switzerland has engaged in a regular political dialogue with India since 2005. Since 2012, the two countries have also been involved in dialogue on migration.
There are numerous bilateral agreements between Switzerland and India in various fields, including trade, education, air transport, finance, taxation, and cooperation in science and technology. Switzerland has been engaged in regular political dialogue with India since 2005.
India is a priority country for Swiss foreign economic policy. It is Switzerland’s third largest trading partner in Asia, and its first in South Asia. The Indian market represents a great potential for the Swiss economy, particularly because of its considerable growth.
Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, visited India in May 2015. The two countries’ Joint Economic Commission meets regularly to discuss economic issues, most recently on 14 May 2015 in Delhi. Financial dialogue with the Indian Ministry of Finance initiated by the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters has been taking place since 2012.. The European Free Trade Association and India have been negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement since 2008.
In 2015, exports to India amounted to CHF 2.06 billion, an increase of 6.6% compared to last year, while imports amounted to CHF 1.46 billion, a decrease of approximately 10%. Switzerland is one of the ten largest investors in India. According to the Swiss National Bank, Swiss direct investment in India amounted to CHF 4.5 billion at the end of 20154. Some 250 Swiss companies have a presence in India, either in the form of joint ventures or branches of their own company. At the end of 2015, there were about 100,000 jobs created through Swiss direct investment in India.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
In 2008 Swiss and Indian stakeholders jointly decided to launch a pilot project for cooperation on vocational education and training, entitled 'Swiss VET Initiative India'. The successful project was overseen in the initial phase by the Swiss federal government and largely financed by partners from the private sector. India is also one of seven non-European countries with which Switzerland has developed closer cooperation in research in recent years. Following the signing of a framework agreement on science and technology in 2003, a pilot programme was launched in 2005 to explore the potential for research collaboration. In 2008 the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) initiated together with its Indian ministerial counterpart a bilateral research programme, the "Indo-Swiss Joint Research Programme". The aim of this cooperation is to establish a tradition of research between Switzerland and India, based on scientific excellence, mutual benefit and balanced funding. At the global level, research cooperation between Switzerland and India is quite strong.
Switzerland is represented by a scientific adviser at the embassy in New Delhi and since 2010 has had a Swissnex office in Bangalore. Swissnex offices are platforms for scientific and technological exchange. They support Swiss universities and researchers in new partnerships and thus promote Switzerland as a place for education, research and innovation.
Scholars, researchers and artists from India can apply to SERI for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been active in India since 1961. Conventional bilateral development cooperation was terminated in 2010, after more than 50 successful years of activity, but Switzerland remains active in India with its Global Programme on Climate Change and continues to provide support through specific projects by Swiss Humanitarian Aid and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (trade and environmental technology cooperation). In addition, the programme office is home to the secretariat of LOGIN (Local Governance Initiative and Network), a network which includes ten partner countries in South and South-East Asia.
The aim of the Global Programme on Climate Change is to contribute to long-term climate-compatible development in India. By promoting access to sustainable energy sources and energy efficiency, and the ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions, it makes an effective contribution to reducing poverty. It does this through an approach which combines political dialogue with the promotion of innovative projects and research. In this respect the transfer of Swiss technology and know-how and the development of Indo-Swiss partnerships are especially important.
Swiss nationals in India
In 2015 there were 844 Swiss nationals living in India.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland recognised India after independence in 1947 and established diplomatic relations thereafter. From 1971 to 1976, during the dispute over Bangladesh, Switzerland represented the interests of India in Pakistan and those of Pakistan in India. India has an embassy in Bern and consulates general in Geneva and Zurich.
In 1851, the Volkart Trading Company was established in Basel and Bombay and soon expanded its network of branches in India and diversified its activities. It became the backbone of Switzerland’s economic and consular presence in India. In the first half of the 20th century, there was a steep rise in the number of Swiss nationals working in India.