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Switzerland seeks to discuss Kashmir during Ram Nath Kovind’s visit

MEA on proactive mode to keep narrative on Kashmir positive

Switzerland has put the Kashmir issue on the agenda of talks with India during President Ram Nath Kovind’s state visit to the European nation next week.

President Kovind will be on a three-nation tour from 9-17 September during which he will visit Iceland, Switzerland, and Slovenia.

In a statement, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in Switzerland said the “situation in Kashmir” would be discussed, among other things.

“Discussions will include the envisaged free trade agreement that the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and India have been negotiating since 2008. Cooperation between Switzerland and India on energy and transport will also be addressed. Other items on the agenda include climate change, global security issues and human rights, the situation in Kashmir and India’s regional situation”, the statement said.

Swiss President Ueli Maurer will receive President Ram Nath Kovind in Bern with military honours on 13 September. The official talks will be attended by President Maurer, Vice President Simonetta Sommaruga and Federal Councillors Guy Parmelin und Ignazio Cassis.

The main areas in which there is potential for strengthening bilateral cooperation include economic affairs and finance as well as science, research, and education.

Highlighting the importance that Switzerland attaches to relations with India, the statement read, “Since 2005, Switzerland and India have maintained a regular political dialogue. India is Switzerland’s third-largest trade partner in Asia and its most important trade partner in South Asia.

“The two countries also regularly exchange views within the framework of a joint economic commission that includes the private sector. In addition to political and economic exchanges, Switzerland and India also foster cooperation in the fields of science, education and culture,” the statement read.

This comes days after the European Union Committee on Foreign Affairs discussed Kashmir in a closed-door meeting. The in-camera briefing of the European members in Brussels was held on 3 September with Gunna Wiegnad, Managing Director for Asia and Pacific, European External Action Service (EEAS).

India maintains that changes in Article 370 are its internal matter and all issues between India and Pakistan are necessarily bilateral with no scope for outside interference.

The President’s overseas tour will be followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, primarily for the UN General Assembly meet. Modi is expected to dispel all apprehensions of the global community in the context of Kashmir during his interaction with world leaders there.

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