Cooperation built on friendship and respect
Delhi, 21.10.2019 - Swiss Railtech Networking Forum 2019 – Embassy of Switzerland
(The spoken word is final)
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here with you this evening. Earlier today, I had already the pleasure of meeting my counterpart, the Minister of Railways and Commerce, Mr. Piyush Goyal. We have launched the Joint Working Group for closer cooperation in the railway sector.
About 15 years ago, when I visited the South of your beautiful country, I travelled with the Nilgiri Train. Honestly, if at that time you would have told me that 15 years later I will come to India as the Swiss Minister of Transport – accompanied by an important group of business delegates of the Swiss clean-tech industry and the rail – I would not have believed you!
Now – I am here, and I am very glad to be here – together with all of you. Because our countries have a deep-rooted history of cooperation and friendship. Switzerland swiftly recognized Indian’s independence in 1947. And only one year after, we concluded the Treaty of Friendship. This treaty defined the fundamentals of our bilateral relations: friendship & mutual respect. This is exactly how we want to continue our successful cooperation with your country.
I believe that our technological cooperation is not just a happy coincidence. The fabrics of our nations are similar: Both are democracies, and we both know the importance of human rights, freedom of speech and free elections. In both countries, family businesses are the backbone of the economy. Both have long-standing railway traditions. Switzerland’s first train was operated in 1847 (Spanisch-Brötlibahn). India’s first train was a goods train that was operated in 1837, and the first passenger train was operated in 1853.
And we both know that the train is – when it comes to mobility – the champion as far as climate protection is concerned. As climate change is probably one of the biggest challenge for our generation, I am glad that with the rail we have a reasonable answer.
But railways is – of course – far more than a means of transport contributing to climate protection. Railways is also one of the most important contributor to our countries’ economic growth: Indian Railways is the country’s largest employer and SBB, the Swiss Federal railway company, is Switzerland's fourth largest employer.
Both countries are investing in infrastructure. Our centre-piece is the New Rail Link trough the Alps, comprising three tunnels. The Gotthard is the world’s longest railway tunnel (57 km). It brings northern and southern Europa closer together. It reflects all what Switzerland stands for: innovation and precision, reliability and sustainability put into practice. It shows that pioneering achievements are still possible in the 21st century. I feel proud!
I am convinced that we can deepen our good cooperation even more. India is committed to further develop its public transport system. India will improve transport of goods and passengers, freight corridors, metro projects and construction of high-speed train tracks. I am deeply impressed – and delighted – by the vision of the Indian government. It has set aside funds for this crucial development and encouraged participation of both Indian and foreign players.
Swiss companies are ready to contribute to this journey. They have reliable and efficient solutions in different areas such as electrification and traction, rolling stock, engineering, signaling and train control as well as maintenance systems. They are pleased to explore collaborative opportunities. Today, more than 300 Swiss companies operate subsidiaries and joint ventures in India. They have created close to 100’000 jobs over the last two decades. It highlights the significance the Indian market bears for Swiss entrepreneurs. On a commercial level, several Swiss rail technology companies have already operations in India. On an academic level, we have two important collaborations. My ministry has an MOU with the Indian railways to enable technical cooperation. And one of our federal institutes of technology (ETH Zurich) has a collaboration with Konkan Railways. On the other side, Switzerland is one of the preferred ‘gateways’ to the European market for close to 150 Indian companies.
This high level of engagement is encouraging for future developments: In this context, Swiss representations in India have launched the new initiative 'Swiss it!' this year. It will showcase ‘the Swiss way of doing things' through a series of public events and contribute towards excellence in Swiss-Indian partnership.
I am convinced; our partnership – including rail transport – will be a dynamic joint journey, full of successful developments and fruitful cooperation.
At a time when nationalism and protectionism are gaining ground in many places, we, by contrast, want to catch the opportunities offered by openness and cooperation, and we want to bring people together – also tonight!
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General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC