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Remarks by Ambassador Sibi George at the Pro Helvetia Reception in Zurich April 4, 2019

Posted on: April 04, 2019 | Back | Print

Honourable President of Pro Helvetia, Distinguished guests,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Evening. Thank you for inviting me and my wife today to this reception. I am happy to meet renowned artists of Switzerland, who have contributed to strengthening India Swiss cultural relations.

I have been in this beautiful country for over one year now. As a diplomat, one is happy to be in Switzerland. A country which ranks among the top globally in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, quality of life, economic competitiveness, innovation index, human development, happiness index and above all have a cultural identity of its own.

During the last one year, I have been travelling all over Switzerland. In addition to the Swiss and a large number of foreigners here, in the months of April to July, I also find a large number of Indians here during the touristic season. Indian tourists are found in large numbers in Zurich and in Bernese Oberland trying to climb mountains and run around in the valleys. They come in such large numbers here every year as if there are no high mountains, no heavy snow and no matching Bollywood locations in India. From the land of Himalayas, which means the abode of snow, they travel all the way to Alps to see snow. Some even travel to places like St. Mortiz and Montreaux as if there are no serene wedding locations in India, of course contributing to Swiss economy.

During my travels to the length and breadth of this landscape, I realised that what makes this country the attraction of the world, is that here every Canton, every city, every small township and every village has something unique to offer. Its art, its culture, its music, its values and traditions are worth exploring and enjoying. Wherever you go, you return with the satisfaction of having experienced something unique. The more you explore, the more you realise that there is much more you need to enjoy and explore.

Let me share with you a small experience that I had in Switzerland. I was meeting a group of students from one of the prestigious Universities in Switzerland. I spoke at length at India’s history, its diversity, culture, dances, music, cuisine and costumes. One of the students got up and asked me. Ambassador how much time one should spend in India to get a grip on the Indian culture and Indian way of life. I thought for while about the huge task she has before her to get a grip on Indian culture, which is so vast and so diverse. I said to get a grip on Indian culture, perhaps you need to spend a lifetime or a little more than a lifetime in India. To get a taste of Indian culture, perhaps a years or at least a few months. I am happy to note that most of you have travelled to India and spend at least a few weeks in India. You have got a glimpse of India.

The connection between India and Switzerland is also a connection between Himalayas and Alps. This connection is much stronger than we think. It is not limited to Bollywood and Mountains or its Snow. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I see an India connect in every corner of Switzerland. It is much deeper than lakes and much higher than mountains. It is one involving universities, business establishments, laboratories, factories, technology cooperation, research, music and dance. If nothing else, there is the connection of Yoga and Ayurveda. One of the most important link between our two countries is the connection of spirituality which is manifested in the love for yoga we see here. I would like to invite you for the Yoga celebrations that we plan to do in June this year in many cities of Switzerland including in Zurich.

In India, we speak several hundred languages, we worship different Gods, we eat different foods, we wear different clothes, but there is a feeling of oneness and common consciousness, a civilizational bond, that keeps us together, make us proud as India. Every diverse culture in India flourishes, every region and religion in India flourishes. As an Embassy in Switzerland, one of our priorities is to celebrate this diverse culture of India in Switzerland and promote the Cultural Exchanges and interaction between our two countries. We would like to work with each one of you to deepen our cultural engagement. I am happy to note that this week on April 9, we are celebrating Foundation Day of ICCR – Indian Council for Cultural Relations in Berne. I invite you to join us.

The last few years have been very eventful in India – Swiss relations. We maintain highest level of engagement at political level. We had three summit level visits in the last three years. Prime Minister visited Switzerland in June 2016. Prime Minister of India delivered the key note opening address at the WEF in Davos in January 2018. Swiss President visited India on a State visit in August 2017. Swiss Foreign Minister was in New Delhi and Varanasi in August 2018. Equally important is our business and cultural engagement with Switzerland which is growing rapidly. We just concluded a Festival of India in Switzerland with Indian cultural troupes performing fifteen cities in Switzerland. We are celebrating India Year of Tourism and India Year of Science and Technology in Switzerland. This year we are in various cities celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

I invite you to visit India again to explore the billion experiences that it offers. Come and enjoy our diversity. Come and participate at the events that we organise in Switzerland. Be part of our Indian Cultural Network. We are happy to work with each one of you.

I once again thank Pro Helvitia for organising this event and inviting us for this evening.

Let me quote Swami Vivekananda to conclude, “I am in Switzerland. It is a miniature Himalayas…. I am intensely enjoying it. I feel so, so uplifted.”

Thank you very much.