The official talks focused on relations between Switzerland and India, particularly the ongoing negotiations on a free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Switzerland is a member, and India. Both sides are aware that the potential in economic relations is not yet being fully exploited. They therefore reiterated their commitment to bringing the negotiations to a conclusion. President Leuthard stressed that Switzerland was seeking pragmatic solutions. She also emphasised the need for a bilateral investment protection agreement. Good investment protection is important to promote economic relations. In addition, declarations of intent were signed between Switzerland and India on cooperation in the field of rail transport, as well as between the ETH Zurich and Konkan Railways.
The talks also covered financial and fiscal policy. International cooperation on combatting tax evasion and tax fraud has improved markedly in recent years. In that regard there was a discussion following on from the joint declaration of November 2016 on the introduction of the mutual automatic exchange of information in tax matters with India.
A further topic of discussion was the common concerns regarding climate change. The situation in Southern Asia, efforts to combat terrorism, issues surrounding migration and the political and economic situation in Europe were also addressed.
The official talks were further attended by State Secretary Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, the director of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), State Secretary Jörg Gasser, director of the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters (SIF). The programme included a meeting between the Swiss president and the Indian prime minister with Swiss business representatives.
At the start of her visit to India President Leuthard was received by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Modi, after which she laid a wreath at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial. Later President Leuthard will attend a state banquet hosted by President Kovind and hold meetings with a number of government ministers during which she will discuss energy, transport, environmental, financial and trade issues.
Launch of 70th anniversary celebrations
The focus of the programme on Friday, 1 September, will be on the Treaty of Friendship of 1948 in which Switzerland and India assured each other of ‘perpetual peace and unalterable friendship’. The president’s visit marks the official start of a series of events to celebrate 70 years of Swiss-Indian friendship under the motto ‘Connecting Minds – Inspiring the Future’.
Ms Leuthard will be attending a business event on digitalisation with the Indian trade minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, where she will give a speech. She is also expected to attend a gathering with students on the topic of energy policy and climate change, and pay a visit to the Hope Project, a social project on education, health education and the advancement of women in the old town district of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti in Delhi.
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