SPEECH BY SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL, PRESIDENT OF INDIA, AT BANQUET IN HONOUR OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE SWISS CONFEDERATION, H.E. MRS. MICHELINE CALMY-REY
New Delhi, 7th November 2007
Your Excellency President Micheline Calmy-Rey,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to welcome you, President Micheline Calmy-Rey and the members of your delegation to India.
Switzerland and India have a long tradition of cordial and friendly relations. India signed a Treaty of Friendship with your country on 14th August 1948. Despite tumultuous changes the world over, our relations have stood the test of time. Your visit assumes special significance as our two countries begin to commemorate the 60th anniversary of our Friendship Treaty. It also assumes special significance as we decide to reinforce our friendship and work towards establishing a Privileged Relationship between our two democracies.
We were honoured by your participation in the just concluded 4th International Conference on Federalism. These Conferences, the 2nd Conference of which was hosted by Switzerland, are unique. They are a step towards establishing a 'community of practices' where people come together to engage in a process of collective learning about federalism. India and Switzerland are good examples of successful federalism where every individual or group enjoys more than one identity and these identities merge into loyalty to the State. Our two countries have succeeded in upholding the principle of "respect for differences" and "unity in diversity" as we call it.
I am pleased to note that under your leadership Swiss foreign policy has been marked by a strong commitment to promoting peace, respect for international law, the fight against poverty and the empowerment of women. The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution. It not only grants equality to women, but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. My Government is committed to the implementation of this directive.
Excellency, today we live in an increasingly interdependent world. It is important for our two countries to recognize the need to dovetail the complementarities between a technologically advanced, mature industrial economy such as Switzerland and a large, rapidly growing economy like India. We need to forge closer business partnerships in priority sectors such as engineering, precision manufacturing, high technology, food processing, infrastructure, environment, IT and bio-technology. India with its large pool of skilled manpower could help the Swiss industrial, financial and banking sectors to remain globally competitive.
Switzerland is famous for its dynamic small and medium enterprises and India recognizes the role that such enterprises can play in further promoting bilateral trade, investment and technological links. The agro-based and food-processing industry in India needs an infusion of technology and capacity building. We wish to encourage this interaction.
We also wish to strengthen our ongoing useful collaboration in the S&T sector, especially in "bio-info-nano technologies". This could start with lab-to-lab or university-to-university linkages.
To an Indian, Switzerland is synonymous with snow capped mountains and picturesque locales that form the backdrop of many of our blockbuster films. This has naturally made Switzerland one of the most favoured holiday destinations for Indians. We in turn would also like to encourage Swiss tourists to visit India and make it one of their favourite holiday destinations. We look to benefit from Switzerland's experience in developing our tourist infrastructure, adventure tourism and eco-friendly sustainable tourism in the mountainous regions.
Excellency, India and Switzerland are committed to promoting multilateralism and to further strengthening the United Nations. We share the view that international relations must be democratized and the process of United Nations reform, in particular reform of the UN Security Council, expedited to make the Council more representative of contemporary reality. We are determined to eliminate the scourge of international terrorism against which we have zero tolerance. We also look forward to working with Switzerland on other critical issues such as Climate Change which require a global response within the framework of the United Nations, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities. India is not a major polluting nation and we are committed to ensure that our per capita emissions of Green House Gases remain below those of the developed world.
Excellency, we are convinced that your visit will provide further impetus to bilateral relations between our two countries and pave the way for the Privileged Relationship that we are working towards.
May I now request you all to join me in a toast:-
- to the health and prosperity of the President of the Swiss Confederation, Her Excellency Mrs. Micheline Calmy-Rey,
- to the further strengthening of relations between India and Switzerland, and;
- to the progress and prosperity of the friendly and peace-loving people of Switzerland.