Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi managed to earn Switzerland’s trust, as Bern agreed on Monday to support the South Asian country’s application for its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

After holding talks with the visiting premier in Geneva, Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann said: “Switzerland welcomes an Indian contribution to the non-proliferation of nuclear arms. We promised India support in its efforts to become a member of this group, the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The process has started and we will certainly contribute actively.” However, the president made clear that Switzerland would insist on India signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) before gaining entry into the elite group.

Prime Minister Modi thanked his host for backing India’s NSG membership bid, stressing that Switzerland and India would support each other’s bid for non-permanent membership at the UN Security Council. He also appreciated Bern’s decision to share information about Indians, who have deposited “black money” in Swiss banks, with New Delhi, saying that the issue of tax evasion and black money was a “shared priority” for the Indians and the Swiss. Speaking at a joint press conference, the Indian premier said: “India and Switzerland have been fighting against tax fraud and tax evasion. We discussed the need for an early and expeditious exchange of information to bring to justice the tax offenders. An early start to negotiations on the Agreement on Automatic Exchange of Information would be important in this respect.”

Meanwhile, President Schneider-Ammann assured Modi that Bern would help New Delhi conclude the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – as early as possible. In the presence of his Indian guest, the Swiss president told the press that he would appoint a high-level delegation to re-launch discussions on a possible trade deal with India. According to Schneider-Ammann, head of the World Trade Division at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) Marie‐Gabrielle Ineichen‐Fleisch will lead the delegation as chief negotiator.

Before leaving Geneva for Washington, the Indian PM also attended an economic round table with Swiss businessmen on Monday. At the roundtable, he urged Swiss business leaders and representatives from the Swiss watch-making industry and Novartis to invest more in the South Asian country. “Its (India’s) 500 million plus youth is skilled and ready to meet the global needs of manpower. President Schneider-Ammann and I agreed to build on the Swiss Vocational and Educational Training system suited to India’s needs,” stressed Modi.

Soon after the visiting PM left for the US, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement, saying that the outcome of Modi’s visit to Switzerland was positive, as New Delhi got the backing of Bern in its bid to become a member of the elite Group ahead of its crucial meeting. In New Delhi, senior spokesperson of the Indian ministry Vikas Swarup told the media that Bern’s support for India’s membership of the 48-member Group is important, as Switzerland is a key member of the grouping. As Modi received Swiss backing ahead of his trip to the US and Mexico, it becomes easier for him to get Mexico’s support for India’s NSG membership bid.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]