Federal Councillor Sommaruga on working visit to India

Press Release, FDJP, 06.10.2016

Bern. On Thursday, during a working visit by Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga to India, Switzerland and India signed a visa waiver agreement for diplomats, as well as a technical agreement on the identification and return of nationals of the two countries. The visit also provided an opportunity for talks with Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Federal Councillor Sommaruga later went on to meet representatives from women's rights organisations.

The Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh and the Minister for Justice and Police of Swiss Confederation, Ms. Simonetta Sommaruga exchanging documents after signing an Agreement, in New Delhi on October 06, 2016
The Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh and the Minister for Justice and Police of Swiss Confederation, Ms. Simonetta Sommaruga exchanging documents after signing an Agreement, in New Delhi on October 06, 2016 (Photo: Press Information Bureau, Gorvernment of India)

Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, the head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, and the Indian Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, signed an agreement on the mutual waiver of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports. It will facilitate their freedom of movement, thereby promoting cooperation with India and strengthening Switzerland's position as a host country for international organisations.
Furthermore, two representatives from the Indian and Swiss authorities signed an agreement allowing partners of staff at Swiss representations to work in India.

The technical agreement on the identification and return of nationals, signed by representatives from the Swiss and Indian migration authorities, regulates cooperation on the identification and return of persons who do not have a regulated stay in the respective country. Although there are only a few such cases each year, establishing the identity of a person in order to obtain a valid Indian travel document used to take a considerable amount of time. This is the first agreement of this kind signed by India.

India – a country of major importance

India is a country of major importance for Switzerland in the field of migration. While there are few asylum requests on the part of Indian nationals in Switzerland, India – with some 1,700 permits annually – has for the past ten years topped the statistics for work permits granted to non-European countries.

Some 110,000 visas are issued to Indian citizens each year, which accounts for approximately one fifth of all tourist visas issued by Switzerland. Federal Councillor Sommaruga also visited the Swiss visa application centre in New Delhi, Switzerland's largest visa processing facility.

Official meeting and exchange of views with representatives from civil society

Discussions at ministerial level covered issues such as mutual assistance in judicial matters, protection of human rights and cooperation on tax matters. Other topics covered included the ongoing negotiations on a free trade agreement between EFTA and India, and the protection of intellectual property rights.

While in New Delhi, Ms Sommaruga took part in an exchange of views with representatives from civil society working to improve gender equality and tackle discrimination against women. The participants described the challenges in promoting women's rights in India.

Before travelling to India, Ms Sommaruga completed a working visit to Sri Lanka, where she signed an agreement formalising cooperation between the two countries on migration issues. She is scheduled to return to Switzerland on Friday.

 

Relations between Switzerland and India cover a wide range of areas: there is bilateral cooperation on economic and commercial matters, education, aviation, finance, tax, science and technology. Switzerland and India pursue an active policy of diplomatic visits at a high level. In June 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann in Geneva.

Economic and scientific cooperation between Switzerland and India is becoming increasingly important, as India is a priority country for Swiss foreign trade policy. India is Switzerland’s third largest trading partner in Asia, while Switzerland counts as one of the leading ten investors in India. Based on a framework agreement, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) has become involved in a growing number of projects in India, primarily related to Switzerland’s dual track system of vocational education and training.

Although Switzerland’s traditional development cooperation programme was successfully concluded in 2010 after 50 years, Switzerland remains active in India in the fields of climate change, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources. It funds a variety of humanitarian aid projects (SDC) and economic cooperation projects (SECO). (See FDFA: Bilateral relations Switzerland-India)

India plays a significant role in Switzerland in migration terms. This is evident from the employment market, where since 2006 India has topped the Swiss statistics table for admissions from third countries, with around 1,700 work permits being issued each year In addition, around a fifth of all Swiss tourist visas are issued to Indian citizens, some 110,000 a year, thus placing India at the head of this particular field. In asylum matters, India has been deemed to be a safe country since 1991. The numbers of asylum seekers from India who come to Switzerland are relatively low, and the acceptance rate for applications in recent years was zero per cent.

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