Switzerland’s close and dynamic relations with India are reflected in a large number of agreements and treaties and also in frequent, high-ranking diplomatic visits. The multi-faceted partnership between Switzerland and India encompasses cooperation in several areas including economy, science, education and culture.
Political and diplomatic relations
India is one of Switzerland’s main partners in Asia. Regular high-level visits have strengthened the relations between the two countries. In addition to ad hoc presidential or ministerial visits, Switzerland and India maintain yearly political and thematic consultations and dialogues (see below). Following the State visit of Swiss President Mrs. Micheline Calmy Rey to India in November 2007, Indian President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil visited Switzerland in September 2011. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Switzerland in June 2016.
.Switzerland and India have been regularly conducting a political dialogue since 2005. Since 2012, the two countries have also been involved in a dialogue on migration and consular matters.
Switzerland and India have signed numerous bilateral agreements in various fields including trade, development cooperation, education and vocational training, visas, migrations, air traffic, investments, finance, taxation, and cooperation in science and technology.
In order to facilitate easy accessibility and rendering services to Indian and Swiss citizens, companies, scientific partners and cultural actors, Switzerland maintains a wide network of representations across India. Besides the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi, there are Consulates General of Switzerland in Mumbai and Bangalore, Honorary Consuls in Kolkata and Chennai, a Swiss Business Hub in Mumbai, and a swissnex office in Bangalore.
In 2018, Switzerland and India will celebrate the 70 years of the Indo-Swiss Bilateral Friendship Treaty of 1948.
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 Joint Economic Commission of the two countries meets regularly to discuss economic issues. A financial dialogue between the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters and the Indian Ministry of Finance was initiated in 2012 and since then the officials from both sides have met on a number of occasions. Switzerland and India had signed on November 22, 2016, a joint declaration on the introduction of the automatic exchange of information (AEOI) in tax matters on reciprocal basis. The signing of the joint declaration with India confirms Switzerland's international commitment to implementing the AEOI standard and that it is moving forward to strengthen its network of AEOI partner states. The European Free Trade Association and India have been negotiating the Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) since 2008. The 15th round of negotiations took place on January 11-13, 2017, in New Delhi.
As per the provisional trade data available for 2016, Swiss exports to India amounted to USD 1.60 billion (excluding gold, jewelry etc.), registering a decline of 9.9% compared to the previous year, while imports (excluding jewelry etc.) increased by 2% reaching USD 1.27 billion. Switzerland is the 11th largest foreign investor in India. According to the Swiss National Bank data, Swiss companies made investments worth USD 7.93 billion in India during 2006-2015. Some 250 Swiss companies have a presence in India, either in the form of joint ventures, wholly owned subsidiaries or branch enterprises. The number of jobs created through Swiss direct investment in India stood at about 100'000 at the end of 2015. As per Indian Finance Ministry’s data, outward direct investments (equity, loan and guarantees) from India to Switzerland worth USD 1.42 billion were made during the last three fiscal years, ending in March 2016.
The Swiss Business Hub India (SBHI), located within the Consulate General in Mumbai and with an office at the Embassy in New Delhi, represents Switzerland Global Enterprise, the official international trade and investment promotion organisation of the Swiss federal government.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
An agreement for scientific and technological cooperation was signed in 2003 and a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the social sciences was signed in 2012. The activities under the agreements mentioned above are implemented through the Indo-Swiss Joint Research Programme. The main implementing agencies for the programme are the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (natural and exact sciences) and the University of Lausanne (social sciences). On the Swiss side, calls for proposals for joint research projects in the natural and exact sciences are implemented by the Swiss National Science Foundation.
swissnex India, established in Bangalore in 2010, connects Switzerland and India in the fields of science, education, art and innovation. The activities of swissnex India are focused on four main pillars: academic relations, entrepreneurship, innovation, and the intersection between the arts and science.
India is a priority country for the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. These scholarships provide graduates from all fields with the opportunity to pursue doctoral or postdoctoral research in Switzerland at one of the public funded universities or recognised research institutions.
The Swiss VET Initiative India (SVETII) was launched as a pilot project on the occasion of the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Indo-Swiss bilateral friendship treaty in 2008. A public-private initiative, it reflected a specific demand of Swiss companies in India for qualified workers as well as Switzerland’s interest in positioning its vocational education and training (VET) system internationally. It aimed at transferring elements which were identified as being of systemic relevance to the Swiss vocational education and training system to India. Considered as a success, the pilot project has by now been implemented by a dozen of enterprises.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been supporting India’s development since 1961. Classic bilateral development cooperation was phased out a few years back, but SDC remains active in India through its Global Programmes. The main focus of the activities currently lays on climate change related issues. Switzerland aims to contribute to India’s climate-compatible development. It, on the one hand, strives to enhance the resilience of people, institutions and ecosystems to respond to the impacts of climate variability and change in India. On the other hand, it supports India’s efforts to achieve energy security and a lower emission development by promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency in key sectors. SDC’s approach is to foster partnerships between Swiss and Indian experts and institutions for introducing innovative solutions, generating and sharing knowledge and informing policies.
SDC further supports cooperation activities on other global issues such as food security and water as well as on urban search and rescue. In addition, the Swiss Cooperation Office is home to the secretariat of the Local Governance Initiative and Network (LOGIN), a network bringing together partners from ten countries in South Asia and South-East Asia.
Cultural ties between Switzerland and India
Switzerland and India have a long history of cultural relations. Numerous Swiss artists and researchers have been active in the Indian subcontinent, notably Le Corbusier (architecture) and Alice Boner (painter, sculptor, art historian). On the Indian side, film producers such as Yash Chopra brought Switzerland and India closer through popular Hindi movies filmed in the Swiss Alps. At an official level, cultural relations were established in the 1980s. The Embassy, the Consulates General in Mumbai and Bangalore as well as the Honorary Consulates in Chennai and Kolkata, with the support of Presence Switzerland promote cultural exchanges in Swiss traditional as well as contemporary arts. These include Swiss languages, literatures and cultural diversity, Swiss films and documentaries, as well as exchanges in the field of architecture and design. Further, swissnex India promotes activities and projects that are at the intersection of science and art.
With the opening of Pro Helvetia – Swiss Arts Council in New Delhi in 2007, the cultural relations between the two countries have further intensified. Pro Helvetia focuses its efforts on contemporary literature, visual arts, dance and design. Moreover, several Indian and Swiss artists had the opportunity to profit from the residency programs offered by Pro Helvetia in Switzerland as well as in India.
Swiss nationals in India
In 2016, there were 850 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.