Kick-starting a series of events to mark seven decades of Swiss-Indian Friendship, the Embassy of Switzerland in Delhi officially inaugurated the initiative, “70 Years of Swiss-Indian Friendship: Connecting Minds, Inspiring The Future” earlier this month.

To celebrate the decades-long diplomatic and cultural partnership between the two countries, Swiss President Doris Leuthard, who was recently on a three-day state visit to India, honoured five Indian and Swiss nationals—Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, Sushil K. Premchand, Barbara Maim, Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava—as “Friendship Ambassadors”.

The “Friendship Ambassadors” were honoured for their innovative ideas in the fields of food security, trade, urban design, architecture and entrepreneurship. They were also recognised for their contribution in strengthening the bond between the two countries.

The initiative was organised by the Embassy of Switzerland in India, swissnex India and the Consulate General in Bangalore, the Consulate General in Mumbai, the Swiss Business Hub India, Pro Helvetia: Swiss Arts Council, and Switzerland Tourism in India, to mark the celebrations the 70th anniversary of the Swiss-Indian Treaty of Friendship, which was signed on 14 August 1948.

In addition to this, 30 companies bth from India and Switzerland have also pledged their commitment and contribution to the campaign.

Speaking on the occasion, Leuthard reflected on the close and dynamic relations between India and Switzerland. She said, “Looking at our two countries, you will see thousands of people who over almost seven decades have knitted the fabric which holds together Swiss-Indian relations. We want to celebrate these seven decades with you.”

Extending good wishes to the friendship envoys, Swiss Ambassador to India, Dr Andreas Baum, said, “Our friendship is built on common values: strong traditions of democracy and pluralism. Our friendship is also built on common interests. This is why our small innovative country in the centre of Europe is a perfect match for this booming, emerging superpower. And our friendship is built on passionate people: we are proud to honour some of them as true Friendship Ambassadors.”

He added, “When Indian and Swiss people come together, there is a special spark that is created, there is energy coming out. ”

“Looking at our two countries, you will see thousands of people who over almost seven decades have knitted the fabric which holds together Swiss-Indian relations. We want to celebrate these seven decades with you.”

The initiative, flagged off by Leuthard, will also witness a myriad of activities and events being organised both across India and Switzerland until the end of 2018.

One of the Friendship Ambassadors, Professor M.S. Swaminathan, known as the father of Indian Green Revolution and a prominent personality working closely for the Swiss Development Cooperation on food security and climate change, in his acceptance speech said, “We should have peace and nonviolence; nonviolence to nature and nonviolence to each other. This is basic for development. Sustainable development goals can be a common binding factor between India and Switzerland.”

Another Friendship Ambassador, Sushil K. Premchand, CEO of a leading forecasting firm, PRS Group, and former President of Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the need to focus more on the SME (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) sector and said, “Switzerland is a global leader in innovation and technology, and the Swiss SME sector is an essential contributor. Although most major Swiss businesses have been present successfully in India for a long time, the SME sector is inadequately represented. The primary mutual opportunity for Swiss-Indian business development rests between these SMEs and medium-sized Indian companies. More Swiss SMEs need to better recognise the potential of, and opportunities in India—and this state visit to India will hopefully accelerate this process.”

On the Swiss side, the Friendship Ambassador Barbara Maim, CEO and co-founder of a Swiss startup, Minsh, spoke on the different work cultures in India and Switzerland. Maim also opened up on the plethora of opportunities available in India. “Working in Switzerland is like working inside a bubble. It’s safe and comfortable, but at the same time it is difficult to get out of that bubble. Working in India is like popping that bubble, suddenly there is no safety net. However, there is infinity of opportunities,” said Maim, who is currently based in Bangalore.

The duo Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava, now Friendship Ambassadors, co-founded an architecture platform, urbz platform. In their acceptance speech they shared their thoughts on the enriching experience of continuously moving between Switzerland and India.

Echanove said, “We feel that by moving from one to the other place, and with a team which itself is moving back and forth, we get inspiration from both places which makes it much richer.”

Adding to this trail, Srivastava said, “Every active circulation adds to our work experience. We go back to Geneva with something new and we come back to Mumbai with something new. This circulation is something which we value and cherish a lot.”

The focus of the initiative majorly lies on the Swiss diplomatic network in India, which is endeavouring to bring together young Swiss and Indian minds that will have a bigger role to play in the near future. Continuous substantial contribution to multi-sectoral cooperation between the two countries in several areas like economy, education, trade and business, training, culture and migration is also a priority.

Additionally, the emphasis is on creating opportunities for innovation in business, research and technology, in the fields of governance, art and social inclusion.

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