From Berne to Bengaluru, and from research labs to manufacturing floors, India and Switzerland have immense scope to collaborate in various sectors, especially in science and technology, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Thursday.
Addressing students at the prestigious University of Berne, President Kovind spoke on ‘new age’ partnership between Switzerland and India and areas of cooperation in different sectors.
“It is an expansive theme. It is natural to be so, for we live in the digital age. The markers of these times are green growth, blue economy, climate change, artificial intelligence, innovation and smart solutions,” said Kovind, who is here on the second leg of his three-nation tour to Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia.
“From Berne to Bengaluru, and from research labs to manufacturing floors, much work is being done in these domains. A lot more will happen as we cruise into the machine-intelligence age. Indo-Swiss future engagements will increasingly be defined by these factors and forces. And as we prepare to build our future partnerships, we will continue to derive inspiration and strength from our past and contemporary partnerships as well as our foundational principles.”
“We metaphorically describe the deep foundational connection between the Indian and Swiss thought and values as the ‘Connection between the Alps and the Himalayas’. The energy of these mountains has ever drawn our people closer.”
He said the rich cultural engagement between the two countries had set the stage for bilateral cooperation long before the Friendship Treaty.
“It all began when the Swiss Volkart Trading Company established its office in India in the 19th century. We have come a long way since,” he said.
The Integral Railway Coach Factory in Chennai set up with Swiss assistance celebrated its diamond jubilee in 2015. Today, there are over 250 Swiss companies operating in India. And leading Indian tech firms and innovation majors in Zurich, Basel and Berne.
He said that opportunities for the two countries to collaborate and connect are immense. “India is aiming to become a 5 trillion dollar economy. More importantly, our blueprint for growth is to build next-generation infrastructure, smart cities and digital i-ways, powered increasingly by clean and green energy. And that is where our new-age partnership strikes the chord.”
Emphasising that science, technology and innovation is fast moving to the centre of the ties, he said over 80 scientific institutions and 300 researchers from India and Switzerland have connected with each other on joint programmes.
The President said inspired by Switzerland, a world leader on innovation, India is also making new strides in the fields of start-ups and smart solutions.
India today hosts the third-largest start-up network in the world with over 21,000 enterprises working on subjects as varied as robotics and vitiligo, he said.
“Several Swiss and Indian start-ups have already joined hands to create solutions for climate change, human health and more. We look forward to many more such partnerships,” the President said.
He called for strengthening cybersecurity cooperation, both bilaterally and with the global community.
With India having an ambitious programme to build 100 smart cities, he said Swiss expertise in the circular economy and resource-efficient know-how can help the country to build sustainable urban space, to clean our rivers and to process our food. Indo-Swiss partnership in biotechnology is already supporting climate-resilient agriculture.
On cooperation in the agriculture sector, he said the two countries are together developing new crop varieties.
“Our challenge, in India, is how to produce quality food with less input and less water. We have made a beginning with new forms of agriculture-from employing hydroponics to using solar pumps. But we want to do more, to double our farm income and to strengthen our food security.”
The President said that India is keen to engage with Switzerland on water governance, water use efficiency and treatment of wastewater.
“India has nearly 20 per cent of the world’s population with about 4 per cent of the world’s renewable water resources. We are reviving traditional methods of water conservation and adopting modern innovations to reduce surface flow. Our new national water Mission ‘Jal Jeevan Abhiyan’ with an investment of over 50 billion US dollars, aims to provide clean tap water to around 146 million households by 2024. The Mission opens new opportunities for Indo-Swiss collaboration,” he said.
Stating that Switzerland and India are leading global action on climate change, he said India is on course to meet its commitments under the Paris accord to reduce the energy intensity of its growth and to achieve 40 per cent of its energy use from non-fossil sources.
“We have taken the lead on the International Solar Alliance to promote solar energy worldwide. So far, 75 countries have become their member. We look forward to Switzerland joining the Alliance soon. Our joint work on Glaciology is helping us understand the impact of climate change on the Alpine and Himalayan ecosystems. As a result of our collaboration, all the 12 Indian Himalayan states have worked out their climate vulnerability maps.”
Swiss clean technology and Indian green energy requirements are smart suitors to each other, he said.