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SOURCE: PTI

India is a friend of the world and the global community expects it to contribute significantly in bringing peace to war-torn Ukraine, Swiss State Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alexandre Fasel said on Friday as Switzerland prepares to host a major summit next month to end the conflict in Ukraine.

Fasel held wide-ranging talks with his Indian interlocutors and extended an invitation to the Indian prime minister for participating at the summit that is aimed at charting a course for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine.

Switzerland has extended invitations to over 160 countries for the summit to be held on June 15 and 16.

“India is a friend of the world. There is really an expectation from the international community that India can contribute to this (peace) process,” Fasel told PTI in an interview.

“India is a friend of peace. India has a great experience in conflict transformation and peace promotion. The expectation really is that we can work together and count on India’s support,” he said.

The top Swiss diplomat said India has not decided on attending the summit yet in view of the ongoing parliamentary elections.

“Switzerland has invited more than 160 countries to attend the summit in Brgenstock, Switzerland on the head of state and head of government level. We very much hope that Prime Minister Modi will be able to attend it,” he said.

“For the moment, the Indian side is not in a position to decide or commit because of the elections,” the top Swiss diplomat said.

Fasel also referred to India’s close relations with Russia as well as Ukraine and hoped that New Delhi would play a role in helping the summit chart a roadmap for bringing peace to Ukraine.

“India is a leader of the Global South. India, in diplomatic terms worldwide, has clout and influence which it duly demonstrated during its G20 presidency,” he said.

“The contribution of India is much hoped for, much awaited to prepare the ground and to prepare a framework — a roadmap that will lead towards a negotiated settlement of this conflict,” the Swiss diplomat said.

Fasel held wide-ranging talks with Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs Pavan Kapoor.

Asked how Switzerland expects the summit to be successful in absence of Russia and China, Fasel said Beijing has not yet communicated whether it will attend or not.

“China has not announced whether they will attend or not. They, of course, are invited as well and we very much hope that China will attend,” he said.

“What is important to realise is that this would be a process. We cannot expect a complete peace agreement at this Swiss conference; rather it will be a process that shall lead towards a peace process and negotiated settlement of the conflict. “We are very much thinking in terms of process,” he said.

When asked whether India will attend the summit, external affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said: “We have received an invitation from the Swiss side. We are yet to decide on our participation.”
India has been pressing for resolving the Ukraine conflict through dialogue and diplomacy.

At a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September 2022, in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, Modi said, “Today’s era is not of war” and nudged the Russian leader to end the Ukraine conflict.

Modi’s message was hailed by various global leaders.

In March, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) States of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland signed the Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) with India that came after around 16 years of negotiations.

Under the mega trade pact, the four European countries are looking at making an investment of USD 100 billion in India over the next 15 years.

“We just concluded a very modern and forward looking trade agreement. There are many domains where we strategically engage and we need India in that project as well,” he said.

The top diplomat also described Switzerland’s ties with India as “very broad-based”.

“It is a very broad-based bilateral relation that has been building up for so many decades. Now we are entering a new era with the free trade agreement which India concluded with EFTA that makes Switzerland a market,” he said.