Switzerland's close and dynamic relations with India are manifested in numerous agreements and treaties and in frequent, high-level diplomatic visits. Switzerland and India are partner countries that cooperate in a wide range of areas including trade, science, education and culture.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–India
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
India is one of Switzerland's principal trading partners in Asia. Relations between the two countries have been strengthened through regular high-level visits.
Switzerland and India have signed numerous bilateral agreements in areas such as trade, development cooperation, basic education and vocational skills development, visas, migration, air transport, investment, finance, taxation and scientific and technological cooperation.
Switzerland maintains an extensive network of representations throughout India to facilitate access and provide services for Swiss and Indian nationals, companies, academic partners and cultural actors.
In 2018, Switzerland and India are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the signing of the bilateral Treaty of Friendship between Switzerland and India.
India is a priority country for Swiss foreign trade policy. It is Switzerland's third largest trading partner in Asia and the largest in South Asia. The Indian market and India's strong economic growth in particular offer great potential for the Swiss private sector.
According 2017 trade figures, Swiss exports to India, totalling USD 1.65 billion, increased by 1.7% year-on-year, while imports, totalling USD 1.45 billion, rose by 13%. Switzerland is the 11th largest foreign investor in India. Swiss direct investments in India amounted to CHF 4.6 billion at end-2016. Some 250 Swiss companies are present in India either in the form of joint ventures, wholly owned subsidiaries or branch operations.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Switzerland and India signed an agreement on science and technology in 2003 and a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the social sciences in 2012. The activities covered by these agreements are carried out within the scope of the Indo-Swiss Joint Research Programme.
Swissnex India, which opened in Bangalore in 2010, develops links between Switzerland and India in the fields of science, education, art and innovation.
India is a priority country for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for Foreign Scholars and Artists. These scholarships offer graduates in all fields the opportunity to conduct doctoral or post-doctoral research in Switzerland at a public university or a government-accredited research institution.
The Swiss VET Initiative India (SVETII) was launched as a pilot project in 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between Switzerland and India.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been contributing to India's development since 1961. Traditional bilateral development cooperation was gradually phased out a number of years ago, but the SDC continues to work in India through its global programmes. Currently, activities mainly focus on addressing climate change. Switzerland aims to contribute to climate-compatible development in India.
The SDC also supports cooperation on global issues like food security, water and urban search and rescue (USAR).
Switzerland and India have long-standing cultural relations. Many Swiss artists and scholars have been active on the Indian subcontinent, including the architect Le Corbusier and the painter, sculptor and art historian Alice Boner. Countless popular Bollywood films – including many produced by Yash Chopra – have been filmed in the Swiss Alps, bringing Switzerland and India closer together.
Cultural relations between the two countries were further strengthened with the opening of a liaison office of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia in New Delhi in 2007.
Swiss nationals in India
According to statistics on the Swiss abroad, there were 717 Swiss citizens living in India at the end of 2017.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland recognised India and established diplomatic relations with it after the country gained its independence in 1947. During the dispute over Bangladesh from 1971 to 1976, 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 Swiss trading company Volkart Winterthur established itself as Volkart Brothers in Bombay (now Mumbai). It quickly expanded its network of branches and activities in India, becoming the backbone of Switzerland's economic and consular presence in India. The number of Swiss nationals active in India rose sharply during the first half of the 20th century.