Couchepin ends "successful" India trip
The Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, has ended his state visit to India, calling it a “success” in boosting relations with the sub-continent.
But he warned Switzerland lagged behind some of its European neighbours in terms of scientific cooperation with India.
The five-day trip was aimed at strengthening scientific and technological ties between the two countries and resulted in the signing of bilateral accords.
Couchepin, who was accompanied on his visit by a delegation of representatives from the political, scientific and business spheres, said his trip had brought forward the signing of the accords.
“Without this visit, it would have taken three years to reach the level of cooperation we have managed to achieve in three months,” he said at the end of his trip.
The Swiss president said it was important for Switzerland to become more involved in India’s high-tech sector, which he described as flourishing and a “positive symbol” of a developing nation.
“India has some of the best scientific minds,” he added.
While in India, the Swiss president signed two bilateral accords aimed at boosting cooperation between the two nations: one in the field of science and technology, and the other for the provision of humanitarian assistance in the event of a natural disaster.
They were signed on Monday during a meeting with Indian president Abdul Kalam at the presidential palace in New Delhi.
The scientific and technological cooperation accord focuses mainly on projects for developing nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology. In particular, the document paves the way for exchanges between universities.
During his meeting with Kalam, Couchepin invited the Indian president to Switzerland.
He also invited the Indian prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to next month’s World Summit on the Information Society to be held in Geneva.
Couchepin warned that Switzerland must not miss out on the opportunity to work more closely with the sub-continent, pointing to Germany and France, which have around 150 and 100 technology projects with India respectively.
Rodolphe Imhoof, head of the Asia section at the Swiss foreign ministry, believes Switzerland has much to gain from closer ties with India.
“Closer cooperation with India in the technology sector opens up good prospects for the Swiss economy,” he said. “India is already an important economic partner for Switzerland.”
On Tuesday morning, Couchepin and his delegation met the Indian minister for science and technology, Murli Manohar Joshi, to discuss joint projects.
The two sides agreed to hold workshops in both India and Switzerland to identify specific projects. The joint committee coordinating the cooperation is to meet in June.
Meanwhile, a conference on science is planned to take place in Lausanne some time in 2004.
Before leaving for India, state secretary for science and research Charles Kleiber said the long-term goal was to set up a Swiss-Indian research centre, funded by both governments.
swissinfo with agencies
Couchepin signed two bilateral accords during his trip to India: one to boost scientific and technological ties and the other to provide humanitarian aid in the event of a natural disaster.
Couchepin said Switzerland was lagging behind France and Germany in terms of scientific and technological cooperation with India.
During his trip, Couchepin met the Indian president, Abdul Kalam, the prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the minister for science and technology, Murli Manohar Joshi.
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