President leaves tomorrow on 8-day trip to Switzerland,Austria

"The entire gamut of bilateral, regional and international issues will be discussed between the leaders of the two countries (India-Switzerland)," M Ganapathi, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs said while briefing reporters on Patil's eight-day visit.

He was responding to a question if the issue of blackmoney stashed by Indians in Swiss bank accounts will figure in the discussions. Asked again if there was such a possibility, he said, "I would just like to repeat that the President would discuss the entire gamut of bilateral relations and also regional and international issues."

Patil would be visiting Switzerland from September 30 to October 4 and then will travel to Austria for a state visit from October 4 to 7. On whether the issue of revised Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty with Switzerland will figure during the President's visit, Ganapathi said, "The amending protocol to the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement was concluded nearly hundred days ago.

"The procedure for that is, we have ratified it in India and in the case of the Swiss Confederation, after it is introduced in Parliament it has to wait for 100 days before it comes up as a ratified document.

"Thereafter, there will be exchange of letters between the two sides (Indian and Swiss governments) for it to be effective. One of the most important elements in the amended protocol is Article 26 relating to exchange of information."

The 100-day limit will expire only on October 6, by which time the President will be in Austria.

Besides, a 45-member business delegation led by former FICCI President and Chairman of Modi Enterprises K K Modi, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla, Members of Parliament Vijay Jawaharlal Darda, Prataprao Ganpatrao Jadhav, and Chinta Mohan will also accompany the President.

President would also be visiting the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). The facility is one of the most important areas of research in particle physics.
During the trip, some official agreements are also likely to be signed but MEA officials did not specify in which fields.

"Agreements are in the stages of finalisation. So, we expect to have some of these finalised. I think as we go on we will have them delivered," Ganapathi said.
In Switzerland, the President will pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi on October 2 at his statue in Geneva.

The statue was unveiled in November 2007 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Switzerland.
While in Berne, the President will hold official talks with the President of the Swiss Confederation Micheline Calmy-Rey, and other members of the Federal Council.
President will also unveil a bust of Rabindranath Tagore at the University of Lausanne on October 4.

An MoU is expected to be signed between the University and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations on setting up of a Chair on Indian Studies.
Incidentally, the country is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Tagore's birth.

In Austria, Patil will meet the her counterpart Heinz Fischer and the Federal Chancellor of Austria, Werner Faymann. The President will also visit the Austrian Parliament and meet the President of the National Council, Barbara Prammer and members of the Friends of India Group in the Austrian Parliament.

While in Switzerland and Austria, the President will also meet and address the members of the Indian community. There are around 15,500 Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) in Switzerland and around 20,000 PIOs in Austria.

The President will address the Indo-Swiss Business Forum in Berne on October 4 and the India-Austria Business Forum Meet in Vienna on October 6. The members of the Indian business delegation accompanying the President include representatives from the FICCI, CII and ASSOCHAM.

Two-way trade in 2010 between India and Switzerland touched USD 3.8 billion and between Austria and India it was over USD 1.2 billion. "Both Switzerland and Austria are renowned for their experience and expertise in activities in the high technology related area, renewable and clean energy, infrastructure development, vocational education, small and medium enterprises, drugs and pharmaceuticals, biotechnology besides others.

"The presence of the business delegation will allow both sides to consider the opportunities which exists in not only taking forward the current commercial exchanges but in also considering the considerable untapped potential which so exists," Ganapathi said.

Former President A P J Abdul Kalam had visited Switzerland in 2005. 

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