Switzerland hails India’s economic power, backs n-energy: Envoy (Interview)

August 19th, 2008 - 12:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) Switzerland sees India as “a rising economic power” and backs its efforts to develop civil nuclear energy, Swiss envoy Dominique Dreyer said here, days before a key meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Vienna Aug 21. “Switzerland is in favour of India developing its civilian nuclear energy. Switzerland depends on nuclear power for 30 percent of its energy needs. We have had a good experience with nuclear energy so far,” the envoy told IANS in an interview.

“Increasingly, there is a realisation that the world has to depend on nuclear energy if they have to solve the problem of global warming. Europe is also realising it,” Dreyer said.

“A decision on Switzerland’s position in the NSG has not been taken. It will be taken shortly,” he said on a cautious note in view of the strong anti-nuclear lobby in his country.

“This question of NSG is not a big talking point in public debate in Switzerland. There are, however, concerns about nuclear waste and safety aspects of nuclear installations.”

Acknowledging India’s clean non-proliferation record, the envoy said: “They (some countries in NSG) are not suspecting India of proliferation. They suspect that the deal may undermine Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).”

Switzerland is among a handful of countries in the NSG - besides Austria, Ireland and New Zealand — that have strong views on non-proliferation and frown on any deviation from it.

The envoy, however, underlined that Switzerland will take a “holistic view” of its relations with India and New Delhi’s emergence as an important global player, indicating that his country is unlikely to create hurdles in the way of the India-US nuclear deal at the NSG.

“The image of India is changing in Europe and in Switzerland. India is emerging as an economic power. In business circles, there is an increasing feeling that India is going to be a big player,” he said.

Upbeat about expanding economic ties between the two countries, the envoy said that bilateral trade had reached $3 billion. But that’s just a fraction of the potential that exists, he added.

India and Switzerland are also set to launch negotiations for a free trade area agreement in September to impart an added momentum to their burgeoning economic ties, he said, while alluding to the 60th anniversary of the signing of a friendship treaty between the two countries.

The proposed trade agreement will be part of an economic pact being negotiated between the four-nation European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that includes Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein as well as India.

“As Switzerland is the main trading partner of India in this grouping, it will be its greatest beneficiary,” he said.

There are some hiccups in business ties between India and Switzerland.

“Bureaucratic hurdles … continue to be hindrances. There is also that image of India as a difficult country to do business with,” he said.

But with Europe’s growing impatience with China due to lack of transparency, India is still a good business bet, he said.

“It’s easy to set up a factory in China but it’s difficult to make money. It’s difficult to set up a business in India, but once it is done, it’s easier to reap benefits,” he said.

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