Today I am in India for Foreign Office consultations between our two countries. This is my third official visit to New Delhi, this time as State Secretary in charge of Switzerland’s Foreign Policy. It is a privilege to be back here during this month, which marks 75 years of India’s Independence. I extend my congratulations to the Indian people on this historic occasion. I am also pleased that our two countries will commemorate next year the 75th anniversary of the signing in New Delhi of the 1948 Treaty of Friendship. We can be proud that our friendship has withstood the test of time and has remained firm in the face of shifting geopolitical sands.
India is a priority for Switzerland. This is emphasised in Switzerland’s foreign policy strategy that seeks to further advance ties with India.
Switzerland and Indian partners are collaborating on digital transformation, sustainability, health, life sciences, medtech, infrastructure, cleantech, fintech, blockchain, AI and robotics. Innovation and investment continue to be the primary drivers of our bilateral relations. Going forward, Switzerland intends to further deepen its innovation cooperation with India. With over 330 Swiss companies, Switzerland is the 12th largest investor in India. About 100 Swiss companies manufacture locally and support the Make in India initiative. As a former delegate for trade agreements and head of bilateral economic relations for the Swiss government, I am well aware of our enormous bilateral economic potential. Trade talks between Switzerland (European Free Trade Association EFTA) and India are high on the priority list. After a productive exchange at the World Economic Forum in Davos in May, our two commerce ministers are expected to meet again in New Delhi in the beginning of October.
The thematic scope of our bilateral relations has only grown over time and will continue to expand in the future. Digitalisation is emerging as a relatively new area of engagement with enormous potential for Switzerland and India. It is a thematic priority identified in my country’s foreign policy strategy and actively promoted by my President. Switzerland plays a leading role in researching new technologies and is home to many innovative and world-leading technology companies. As one of the most innovative countries of the world, Switzerland seeks to engage with India, the leader of the Industry 4.0 revolution, in areas ranging from digital governance to digital self-determination.
Switzerland was elected to the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member for the first time this year in June. I am, therefore, interested to hear about the experience of India as an elected member of the Security Council. At a time when the world is witnessing worrying geopolitical developments, Switzerland recognises the responsibilities that come with this membership. These are reflected in its priorities during its UN Security Council membership.
In the Security Council, Switzerland will do everything possible to ensure sustainable peace. Switzerland is a truly peace-loving country that has contributed significantly to peacebuilding, conflict prevention and mediation. Having served as ambassador in Tehran as a go-between for the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran, I have first-hand knowledge of Switzerland’s good offices. Many years ago, from 1971 to 1976, Switzerland represented India’s interests in Pakistan and vice versa.
In wars, protecting civilians is crucial. We see this in a shocking way in Ukraine and in many other conflict zones. Switzerland has condemned the military aggression of Russia in the strongest terms. Our thoughts go to the families of the many victims of the war. In the Security Council, Switzerland will focus on the protection of civilians and on international humanitarian law.
Switzerland will also address climate change and its impact on security. Climate change is here. We experience that every day. The security consequences are mounting. They must be addressed.
Last but not least, Switzerland desires effective UN institutions. India has been advocating for a reform of the Security Council. Switzerland’s fourth priority in 2023 and 2024 will be to contribute to improving the United Nations Security Council’s effectiveness towards greater transparency and accountability.
There are convergences in Swiss and Indian priorities at the UN Security Council. Switzerland, like India, is committed to a robust and effective multilateral system. With reliable voices, our two countries can together contribute to global good. This engagement, in my opinion, is a result of not only our shared priorities, but also our shared democratic values and foreign policy independence.
Switzerland is prepared to take the baton from India at the UN Security Council. As our countries get ready to commemorate the 75th anniversary of their friendship next year, there can be no better tribute to our friendship and partnership — aptly immortalised in popular Indian cinema — than by working together for lasting peace through bilateral and multilateral engagements.
The writer is Swiss State Secretary for Foreign Affairs