About Us Speeches

Remarks by Ambassador Sibi George at the Geneva Webster University April 10, 2019

Posted on: April 10, 2019 | Back | Print

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Good Afternoon.

Thank you for inviting me to this important business event today.

My greetings to the faculty and students of Geneva Webster University.

I bring to you greetings from 1.3 billion people of India. Also from the vibrant Indian diaspora of over 30 million abroad.

I bring you greeting from the third largest economy in the world in terms of Purchasing Power Parity and sixth largest economy in terms of GDP. It is also the world’s fastest growing large economy in the world.

To put things in perspective, I am here today representing a land of billion people, billion opportunities and a land of a few trillion dollar economy.

I thought of doing a colourful PowerPoint presentation. Then I realised that since my points are powerful then I don’t need a PowerPoint presentation.

I am not disclosing any State secret when I say that population in India dwindles in the months of April to June each year. Because during these months many of my countrymen travel to Switzerland as tourists. They can be found in large number in Switzerland including in Geneva trying to climb mountains, run around in the valleys and sail in the lakes. These days they come in such large numbers here every year as if there are no high mountains, no heavy snow, no lakes, no valleys and no matching Bollywood locations in India. Some even travel to Lake Geneva as if there are no serene wedding locations in India, of course contributing to Swiss economy. It is not that India does not have mountains or snow or lakes or rivers, there is an inherent connection between India and Switzerland which attract Indians to Switzerland. I see a similar pull of Swiss tourists and Swiss companies to India. I call this connection, a Connection of Himalayas with Alps. 

The connection between Himalayas and Alps are stronger than we think. It is not limited to Bollywood and Mountains and Snow. It is one involving universities, business establishments, laboratories, factories, technology cooperation, research, music and dance, you name it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I see an India connect in every corner of Switzerland. If nothing else, there is the amazing connection of Yoga and Ayurveda.

A few centuries ago, India was one of the richest countries in the world. It is not for fun that maritime explorers like Christopher Columbus and Vasco-de Gama went around oceans and seas dreaming to reach India. It was for its wealth and richness. Since its independence in 1947, India has made notable achievements in diverse fields, including atomic energy, space science, agriculture, bio-technology and, of course, information technology, for which India is well-known the world over, including in Switzerland. In fact, cooperation in Science and Technology constitutes one of the main area of cooperation between our two countries. To give an example, this month a Swiss satellite was among the 28 satellites that India launched into space. It is highlight the scientific cooperation and achievement that we celebrate the India Year of Science and Technology in Switzerland in 2019-20. This month we will have a Joint Working Group Meeting on Science and Technology.

As you may be aware, India is going through its general elections in the next two months. We are witnessing the largest festival of democracy in the world. Over 900 million people go to polls to elect a government. Let me emphasise one point here. It is a matter of pride for to stand here as an Ambassador in the model democracy of Switzerland and say with confidence that the economic and scientific transformation India achieved was realised not under any oppressive dictatorial regimes but under a constitution which guarantees liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and of opportunity. Very few countries can say this with such confidence.

India today is a land of billion opportunities. India will soon overtake China as the most populous country in the world.  When a billion population grows in standard of living, it offers a billion opportunity for technologically advanced countries like Switzerland. With half of India’s population, that is 600 million people, below the age of 25 years, and about 550 million people as the labour force, India has abundant and youthful human resources. The environment for ‘doing business’ in India is being continuously improved by ushering in stable, predictable and transparent regulations, reducing the time for  registration of businesses and increasing the spread of e-governance.  ‘Red carpet’ has replaced ‘red tape’. In 2018, India’s rank in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business  survey climbed 23 places to 77 among 190 countries surveyed, making it the only country to rank among the top 10 improvers for the second consecutive year. In 2017, India saw a record jump of 30 places to reach the 100th position in the rankings. Major reforms were introduced including the goods and services tax (GST).

Today, India has emerged as the fastest-growing large economy in the world, with a growth rate of nearly 7.5%. It is also a global hub for manufacturing and innovation. It is moving towards a knowledge-based society, which aims to build a five trillion dollar economy by 2022. According to the World Bank and IMF, our growth rate is going to be steady and high.

We are happy that European businesses including Swiss business are increasingly engaging India. In its transformational journey, India regards Switzerland and Swiss companies as natural partners. It is a billion opportunity. There is vast scope to combine our relative advantages, in capital, technology, science and human resources, and to work for mutual benefit. India’s Flagship Programmes like Make in India, Smart Cities, Digital India, Swachh Bharat (Clean India), Startup India, Skill India and other initiatives are resonating well in this land of innovation and competitive edge. We in the Embassy have a special programme MISSP programme aimed at supporting Swiss medium and small companies to engage with India. I am happy that in 2018 we were able to reach out 600 new companies under this programme. Our MISSP 2.0 will be launched shortly.

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. Our bilateral trade today is nearly USD 20 billion. It is not cheese and chocolate. It is Gold and silver, it is chemicals and high end precision machines. The engagement between Indian and Swiss companies are deepening.

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. During my travels to the length and breadth of this landscape, I realised that what makes this country special and an attraction of the world, is that here every Canton, every city, every small township and every village has something unique to offer. 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.

This is exactly what you hear from those Swiss friends who have been to India whether it is Swiss tourists or Swiss businessmen or Swiss artists. Many speak about the houseboat ride in the backwaters of Kerala, their memorable experiences in the monuments in Rajasthan and Agra, beaches of Goa. Most of them are eager to visit India again.

Similar is the sentiments I hear from Swiss businessmen who do business with India. I sometimes hear some complaints about infrastructure, mobility, delay in getting clearances etc. But to be frank with you I have not heard from anyone that we did not make profits. Every Swiss company and every Swiss businessman whom I met, shared with me that ‘yes we are making money in India’. Yes we are going to expand in India. Yes we are looking for a long term partnership with India. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, India is not looking for a one night stay or a short term marriage. India is looking for a long term partnership with Switzerland, its companies, its universities, its laboratories, its mountains and lakes, and above all its friendly people. 

I invite you to visit India to explore the billion opportunities that it offers today. Come and partner in our economic and technological transformation. Come and do business with India. It is a billion opportunities awaiting you, don’t miss it.
Thank you very much.