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Remarks by Ambassador Sibi George at the Annual General Body Meeting of Swiss India Chamber of Commerce (SICC) at Zurich, Jun 19, 2019

Posted on: June 19, 2019 | Back | Print

Remarks by Ambassador Sibi George at the Annual General Body Meeting of Swiss India Chamber of Commerce (SICC) at Zurich, Jun 19, 2019

President of Swiss Indian Chamber of Commerce Mr. Phillip Reich, Key Note Speaker Dr. Ulrich Spiesshofer, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Afternoon.

Thank you for inviting me today to this Annual General Body Meeting of SICC. I am delighted and honoured to be here today.

As Ambassador of India to Switzerland, what I bring to the table today is greetings from 1.3 billion people of India. It is almost 1/6th of the total population of the world. I also bring greetings from the vibrant Indian diaspora of over 30 million abroad.

I have been in Switzerland, this beautiful country, for over eighteen months now. As Ambassador to Switzerland, Lichtenstein and the Holy See, I was honoured to bring such greetings of 1.3 billion people to an Hon’ble President, His Highness a Prince and a Holy Father Pope. My diplomatic colleagues present here would agree that, for a diplomat, it is no small achievement to work towards promoting relations with three important countries. I enjoy it.

I am happy that during the last few years, we have been able to maintain the highest level of engagement with Switzerland at the political level. This included a State visit of Swiss President to India in 2017, visit of Prime Minister of India to Switzerland in 2016 and 2018 and visit of Foreign Minister of Switzerland to India in 2018. Last year India also welcomed His Serene Highness the Prince of Lichtenstein to India. In our bilateral relations, we were able to maintain the same spirit of deeper engagement in business, in science and technology, Innovation and start up, cultural contacts, people to people exchanges and student exchanges. Our trade and investment relations have been on the rise. So is the flow of tourists to both sides.

In fact, I am not disclosing any State secret here when I say that population in India actually dwindles considerably in the months of April to July each year. Why?  Because during these months many of my countrymen travel to Switzerland as tourists. They can be found in large numbers in Zurich and Bernese Oberland trying to climb mountains and run around in the valleys and Swim around in the lakes. Indians come in such large numbers to Switzerland every year as if there are no mountains, no snow and no Bollywood in India. Some even travel to places like St. Mortiz and Montreaux as if there are not wedding locations in India, of course contributing to Swiss economy. I am happy to note that the number of Swiss Tourists visiting India each year has also been on the rise.

I stand here today before you representing the aspirations and opportunities that a billion population and three trillion USD economy offer. An economy poised to become the fifth largest in the world, projected to be a five trillion economy within the next few years.

I am happy that the huge festival of democracy that India celebrated in April/May this year, involving around 900 million electorate, led to a forward looking stable government and visionary leadership that strive to transform its economy. We will continue to make progress in its Ease of Doing Business. You would recall that in 2018, India moved from 100th position in 2017 to 77th position in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index Ranking, biggest jump by any country last year.

I was looking at the programme of today and delighted to see that I am here to give a ‘welcome note’. In diplomatic parlance, a ‘welcome note’ is something usually reserved for a member of the family, a key member of the team which worked hard to put up the show. I am happy that SICC leadership always welcomes the Embassy as part of its family and its team. It is my pleasure and honour to welcome Dr. Ulrich Spiesshofer. I look forward to his key note address.

As for my Embassy, we consider, SICC and its leadership as part of its family. It has always been a partner for us, not only for our endeavour to promote India – Swiss business engagement, but even for our efforts to showcase Indian art and culture in Switzerland and develop people to people contacts and exchanges. In fact, for the Embassy SICC has been an all-weather friend and partner.

SICC was with us when we celebrated last year the 70th anniversary of the signing of the India – Swiss Friendship Treaty that both countries signed in 1948. SICC was with us when we organised the Digital India Summit, Education Summit and Health India Summit last year. It was with us when we organised various business events during the visit of Ministers of External Affairs, Health and Chief Ministers from various States. SICC was with us in Davos, when we organised an interactive session of Swiss business and Indian business, it was with us at the Incredible India and Ayurveda lounges that we set up in Davos last year. SICC supported the Embassy in its endeavour with Swiss Industry Associations and Groups like Swissmem to reach out to over six hundred Swiss Small and Medium Scale companies as part of our MISSP program. It was our partner when we organised various start up and innovation events in Switzerland. Its leadership was with us in our efforts to reach out to Universities and Educational Institutions in Zurich and in Geneva and even at the Zurich Innovation Park. SICC was with us last year when we launched the Indian Consular Services in Zurich, an initiative welcomed by one and all. SICC was with us last week when we opened the Indian Business Information Center in Zurich.

In its transformational journey, India regards Switzerland and Swiss companies as its natural partners. I am happy that more and more Swiss companies are also looking at India as natural partners. Our Flagship Programmes like Make in India, Smart Cities, Digital India, Swachh Bharat (Clean India), Startup India, Skill India and other initiatives continue to resonate well in this land of innovation and competitive edge. There is vast scope to combine our relative advantages, in capital, technology, science and human resources, and to work for mutual benefit.

We still hear some murmurs and complaints here and there, bureaucratic delays in clearance, bottlenecks, challenges, extreme weather, and lack of adequate infrastructure. I am happy to note that no one has ever complained that they were not making profit in India and they were not growing in India. Most of the investors and business firms engaging with India have a success story to share, a story of growth and progress. They see a billion opportunities in India.

With this happy note, let me conclude.

Thank you.