Category Archives: Consular Corps

Thoughts on the 2010 FIFA World Cup: H.E. Marijke A. van Drunen Littel, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

What is your message to the football team and what are your views on South Africa hosting the FIFA World Cup?

My message to the Dutch team is “HUP HOLLAND HUP!” – the Dutch fans will be chanting this throughout the tournament.

South Africa has made a fantastic effort in ensuring that the World Cup will be a “Sporty” success.

How far do you think your team will advance?

The Finals, of course!

Who according to you are the top 3 favourite teams to win the FIFA World Cup in South Africa?

The Netherlands (Holland), Brazil and England.

Who is your  favourite to win the “Golden Boot” award?

If Ronaldinho would have been playing I would have nominated him, but my favourite now is Arjen Robben!!


Thoughts on the 2010 FIFA World Cup: H.E. Peter E. Specker, Consul General of Switzerland

What is your message to the football team and what are your views on South Africa hosting the FIFA World Cup?

My message to the team is to show the best of our football and show that you are  fair players.

It is a challenge, a chance and a just reward for South Africa for her achievements in many sectors. Go RSA, go for the Cup and bring your joy to the world!

How far do you think your team will advance?

Second Round.

Who according to you are the top 3 favourite teams to win the FIFA World Cup in South Africa?

Spain, England, Germany.

Who is your  favourite to win the “Golden Boot” award?

A South American player.

Thoughts on the 2010 FIFA World Cup: H.E. Seo-Hang Lee, Consul General of the Korea Republic

What is your message to the football team and what are your views on South Africa hosting the FIFA World Cup?

Let us contribute to world peace through fair play of sports!

I sincerely hope that South Africa will have many such meaningful developments like hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

How far do you think your team will advance?


Who according to you are the top 3 favourite teams to win the FIFA World Cup in South Africa?

Brazil, Spain, Republic of Korea.

Who is your  favourite to win the “Golden Boot” award?

Ji-sung Park.

Thoughts on the 2010 FIFA World Cup: H.E. Paul A. Folmsbee, Consul General of the USA

What is your message to the football team and what are your views on South Africa hosting the FIFA World Cup?

The “Stars and Stripes” are role models for the millions of youth players in the United States who help to make football the most popular recreational sport. Internationally, football of course is a great cultural unifier: bringing people together across divides of class, region, and religion.

South Africa will do the entire African continent proud in this first ever hosting of the FIFA World Cup in Africa. I have heard and read a lot about the tournament, and the excitement is building as the start of the tournament draws near.

How far do you think your team will advance?

With the team’s second place finish at the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009, I think they do have a chance to win it all.

Who according to you are the top 3 favourite teams to win the FIFA World Cup in South Africa?

Brazil is a perennial favorite. Spain is also a leading contender and it would be a delight to see them win for the first time. The third favorite could either be England or Germany.

Who is your  favourite to win the “Golden Boot” award?

Lukas Podolski from Germany who won the “Best Young Player Award” in 2006.

Interview with H.E. Peter E. Specker, Consul General of Switzerland

Mr. Specker shares with us the primary areas where India and Switzerland can exchange expertise and ideas to forge better alliances and share knowledge.

What is the role of the Consulate’s office in terms of trade, tourism and investment between India and Switzerland?

The Consulate supports activities of all parties seeking to develop or strengthen ties between India and Switzerland whether in trade, tourism, investment, culture or education. We act as facilitators and try to bring partners together as per their requirements. Essentially, we are coordinators between the two countries. Our role also includes safeguarding the interests of Swiss nationals in India. The issuing of visas is an important part of our total jurisdiction.

Switzerland is present in India through its network comprising of the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi, including the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Swiss General Consulate in Mumbai, the Swiss Business Hub in Mumbai, the Swiss Honorary Consuls in Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata, the Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce (SICC) and – awaiting for approval by the relevant authorities in India – Swissnex Bangalore.

What will be the role of Swissnex in India?

Our goal is to fully exploit the potential of cooperation between Switzerland and a limited number of countries in the fields of higher education, research, technology and innovation and to promote Switzerland as a leading country in those domains. So far, the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research of the Ministry of Home Affairs has opened Swissnex offices in Boston, San Francisco, Shanghai and Singapore. Switzerland has deposited a request with the relevant authorities to operate an office in Bangalore. Swissnex in Bangalore will provide a platform for Swiss and Indian individuals and organisations to share knowledge and form partnerships in science, higher education, technology and innovation.

A recent example of this joint-cooperation was the launch of the first Swiss satellite on 23 September 2009 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India. The satellite, called SwissCube, travelled on board an Indian PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) together with 5 other nano-satellites from Germany and Turkey.

India is as a high priority country and Switzerland is committed to strengthen existing links and forming new links with the higher education and research institutions in India. Indo-Swiss cooperation encompasses a broad range of activities including joint research projects, reciprocal visits of faculty members, exchange programmes for students and trainees, jointly organised courses and the coordination of two bilateral research programmes. The leading house for Indo-Swiss cooperation is the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) together with the associated leading house, the University of Lausanne.

What is the role of the Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce?

The Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce (SICC) is a bi-national, private sector, non-profit association with 400 Swiss and Indian members. It is devoted to growing business between individuals and companies in India and Switzerland. Founded in 1985, SICC is widely recognized as a key player in advancing Indo-Swiss economic relationships. As an independent organization, the Chamber cooperates with all public and private institutions that pursue similar goals.

SICC achieves its objectives by enhancing the flow of information on investment and trade-related issues between India and Switzerland.  It strives to improve bilateral commercial, industrial and technical cooperation between India and Switzerland as well as support the establishment of joint ventures and strategic alliances between enterprises of both countries

The SICC Board includes representatives of firms that actively pursue the enhancement of Swiss-Indian economic relations. The Board is supported by an advisory body that helps to strengthen the SICC’s network, and functions as a sounding board on a variety of issues that the chamber routinely confronts.

SICC has its head office in Zurich, Switzerland and regional offices in Bangalore (SICC Southern Region), Delhi (SICC Northern Region) and Mumbai (SICC Western Region).

The Swiss Business Hub is part of Osec-Business Network Switzerland covering the area of the export and investment promotion of Switzerland. It is the official Swiss organisation for trade promotion with offices integrated at the Consulate General in Mumbai and in the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi.

What platforms are present for cultural and educational information exchange between India and Switzerland?

In the cultural field, we have a Liaison Office of the Swiss Arts Council in New Delhi called Pro Helvetia which initiates, supports and presents projects that reflect the multicultural character of Switzerland and India. It supports Swiss artists seeking dialogue with other cultures in an effort to forge closer ties. The focus is on quality and originality, on mutuality and respect to ensure that both sides benefit from the exchange.

The liaison office in New Delhi is the Swiss Arts Council’s first office in Asia. Its aim is to coordinate Pro Helvetia’s activities in the South Asia region starting with India. It supports artistic and cultural collaboration between India and Switzerland and also promotes Swiss ideas and arts practice among Indian audiences. Contemporary music, design, dance, literature, photography and new media are the areas that Pro Helvetia New Delhi will focus on in the near future.

Can you elaborate on the origins of the name Helvetia and how it came to be associated with Switzerland?

Helvetia is the Latin word for Switzerland and used by the Romans for the territory between the Lake of Constance and the Lake of Geneva. Officially, Switzerland is known as the Confoederatio Helvetica in Latin, hence its ISO country code of CH. On each coin and postage stamp of Switzerland, you will find either Helvetia or Confoederatio Helvetica.  This is also the reason why Swiss license plates have the international abbreviation of CH and why the Swiss Franc currency is abbreviated as CHF.

Helvetia became a symbol of unity of the Old Swiss Confederacy in the face of the denominational disputes initiated by the Swiss Reformation in the 17th Century and the term became widespread in the 19th Century.

Today the Swiss Confederation is a multi-lingual and multi-cultural nation.  Helvetia is the symbol of a unified Switzerland.

In addition to being one of the richest economies, Switzerland is also a leader in the environmental performance index. How does Switzerland balance economic prosperity with environmental sustainability?

Switzerland is a small country with very limited resources. We have to care about our natural resources because villages, cities, and factories all share the same space. Because of this close proximity, every interference – such as pollution of air or water – is immediately noticed. Therefore, very early on Swiss people realized the importance of cleaning waste water and implementing air pollution measures.

Of course, one of the most important reasons for achieving environmental sustainability is because we earn our livelihoods from this magnificent nature. This is our value and this is why we have to care for it.

Are there any challenges in maintaining this balance, such as accommodating tourists from nations where environmental awareness is limited?

Even though we have many visitors, we make it a point to always offer environmentally friendly tourism opportunities. We have an excellent system of public transportation in Switzerland. When tourists see how we manage the environmental situation in Switzerland from transportation to waste collection and water treatment, I am certain most visitors think that they should implement similar measures in their own countries. For example, each small village in Switzerland has its own water treatment plant.  If it is possible in a small village in Switzerland, then why not in their own countries?

Which are the primary areas where India and Switzerland can exchange expertise and ideas to forge better alliances and share knowledge?

Certainly one of the focus points this year will be the cooperation in new technologies such as renewable energy and sustainable management in general. Both India and Switzerland realize how fragile the

…environment is and how important it is to take care of it.  Switzerland without the snow and glaciers and India without its wildlife and rural landscape would no longer be the same attractions. We must realize the immeasurable value of these resources and also share this message with our partners.

With the growing Indian economy over the past few years, do you see an increase in investments between Switzerland and India and extension of bilateral trade between the two states?

India is one of the five major focus markets of Switzerland. It is undoubted that the Indian economy has enormous growth potential. Swiss companies are certainly maneuvering towards the Indian market.

There are 150 Swiss companies in India. There are 60 companies in Maharashtra.

Last year, I was present at three factory inaugurations in Maharashtra. This shows the interest of the Swiss industry in the Indian market. They believe in India and its potential.

The main segment of investment is in mechanical appliances and components. Swiss companies are increasingly manufacturing their products in India and covering the Southeast Asia and Middle East regions from a base in India. Swiss and Indian companies are also working together in the automotive sector. For example, in each Nano car, there are at 35 positions with Swiss technology, but produced in India by Indo-Swiss joint ventures. This certainly creates many employment opportunities in the local market. There are at the least several hundred thousand employees of Swiss companies in India.

In terms of bilateral trade, there was approximately USD 2 billion of exports from Switzerland to India in 2009 comprising of machines, appliances and chemical and pharmaceutical products. In the same year, Switzerland imported USD 1 billion of primarily agricultural products from India.  Switzerland is ranked 10 in direct investment to India in the last 10 years. In terms of tourism, 130000 Indian tourists visited Switzerland in 2009.

Switzerland is a favourite for the Indian outbound tourism segment due to the Bollywood influence. According to you, which are the other famous icons of Switzerland?

Aside from chocolate, cheese and watches, an interesting fact is that about half of the computer mouses worldwide are produced with Swiss technology. Logitech, the well-known peripheral device producer for PCs, is a Swiss company.

There are many other products which we use everyday and are not aware that they are of Swiss origin. The very useful and ubiquitous Velcro is a Swiss patent and is used in many clothing items and bags. The origin of the electronic watch was also in Switzerland but the traditional watchmakers did not believe in its future and the technology eventually found its way to Japan and the United States. The food brand Nestlé which produces hundreds of products and employs thousands of people in India is a Swiss company. ACC, another Swiss company, is the second largest producer of cement in India and a key leader in the building and infrastructure sectors.

In fact, perhaps the most popular technology today – the World Wide Web – was invented by scientists at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research and the world’s largest laboratory) at Geneva.

You have been in India for 2 years. What has been your experience so far in increasing awareness of Switzerland across various fields?

I am very impressed by how India identifies Switzerland through film portrayals.  They have a pure image of the country. I am very pleased to see how Indians are charmed by Switzerland. I assure you that the reality will not disappoint this perception.

Personally, I find India to be very fascinating.  I have visited many places throughout India from Manali in the north to the southern tip of Kanyakumari, from Bhuj to Pondicherry. On a recent trip to Kolkata, I was very impressed by how well the city is planned.

One place in India is not like the next and travelling is a must to get a true perspective of the country and its people.

Which are your preferred holiday destinations in India?

I enjoyed Kerala – the backwaters and the hill stations – very much. I have not yet done so but I am looking forward to visiting the national parks of Madhya Pradesh and central India as well as Kashmir and its surrounding areas.

I recently visited Rajasthan and was very impressed by the city of Udaipur. I think every visitor to India should put Udaipur on their list of destinations. It has an excellent balance of history, culture and scenery – all of which will certainly appeal to tourists.

Which are your favourite summer and winter holiday destinations in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, my favourite destinations are the Italian-speaking region of Ticino surrounding the major city of Lugano and the eastern region surrounding Davos where the famous World Economic Forum takes place. Of course, Switzerland offers much in terms of holiday value covering many interests.

What is the awareness of India amongst the people of Switzerland?

The vast diversity of India makes it many things to many people. Perhaps a person from Switzerland who has never travelled outside the country would initially be overwhelmed at the many faces of India – from the major cities to the rural villages. The diversity in Switzerland cannot be compared to the diversity in India. Switzerland has four languages and four cultures. India has hundreds of languages and cultures.

Personally, I have spent 35 years of my life outside Switzerland. For me however, even India was a completely new place. I had never even visited India before I started my current assignment. But it was not so overwhelming for me because I lived in big cities like New York, Madrid, Jakarta, Mexico. India has much in common with other areas of the world and at the same time also holds a unique place in this world which must be experienced.

Which aspect of your multi-faceted role as Consul General do you find most interesting?

The most interesting aspect of this role is being able to meet and build relationships with people from so many different areas of trade and society. As there is no security risk for me in this country, I can roam freely and explore. I can take a taxi or a train or even walk around during day and night without any bodyguards. Because of this freedom, I get a much deeper perspective of the country and its people. I am not in an ebony tower. I am living in contact with the local community. An excellent example is the location of my residence in the Mahalaxmi Temple area – everyday I see thousands of people gather for their daily prayers.

Lastly, what is your message to readers who are planning to visit Switzerland in the near future?

Switzerland is a destination which allows you to be still and enjoy the beauty of the world. Visitors should take the opportunity to rest and not only to run from one corner to the other. Switzerland is a place where you can take a halt, sit down near a lake and look at beautiful mountains and just enjoy nature. Take your time and take your rest in Switzerland.

Interview with H.E. Walter Stechel, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany

Mr. Stechel is in his fourth and final year as Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Mumbai. He shares with us the events and attractions which put Germany at 2nd place on the list of hottest destinations to visit in 2010 as well as discussing the growth in trade, tourism, investments and education exchanges between India and Germany.

This is your last year as Consul General in India. Before you bid auf Wiedersehen, what are the memories and experiences that you will take back from this tenure?

There are two aspects to this; the first being that I had the chance to experience a wonderful and diverse country. I am still trying to visit the places in India that I have not seen as yet. For example, recently I happened to visit Kolkata and Varanasi, soon I will travel to Udaipur and Hampi. I am trying to experience as much of India’s diversity as possible.

Secondly, for me as an economist, it is fascinating to see a country developing at such a rapid pace and establishing itself as an economic power in the world. I feel fortunate to personally experience such a major change in the world economic order. Right now, India is such a vibrant country, full of optimism and youth, always on the move. This is the impression I am taking with me when I leave India.

During your tenure as Consul General in India, which roles of yours have you found most interesting?

The role of a Consul General is not limited to trade or the issuing of visas. I feel that culture and education are becoming more and more important. Learning the language, for example, is one gateway to understanding another country’s culture. I am very fortunate to have been a part of initiatives that have brought people closer to Germany, generated interest and helped people further understand our country.

Science and technology is another key area for cooperation. When Chancellor Angela Merkel visited India in 2007, her focus was the exchange of science and technology between India and Germany. She launched the famous Science Express that was seen by about 2 million people across India. When President Horst Köhler visited India recently, he inaugurated the Indo-German Max Planck Centre for Computer Science, together with the Indian Science and Technology Minister, Prithiviraj Chavan.

Many leaders from India, including the Prime Minister, have also visited Germany. This exchange takes place frequently and shows how India and Germany have become strategic partners. For Germany India is a valued and reliable friend of long standing. On the other hand we feel that Germany is one of India’s preferred partners in areas ranging from business to science and technology.  We have achieved a lot but there is still great potential for future projects and cooperation.

Which are the various trade, education and tourism bodies that have forged successful alliances with partners in India?

The Consulate is not alone in promoting Indo-German relations. We have several institutions which cover different areas and all work together towards exchange between India and Germany, particularly in view of the forthcoming Germany year in India in 2011/12.  This will provide a broad spectrum of activities in cultural, economic, scientific and political areas and throughout the year will highlight the strong relationship between our countries.

The Indo-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce is a pillar for economic relations between the two nations. With more than 6500 members, the Chamber is the largest of our bilateral Chambers worldwide. This network is supported by the German government and deals primarily with trade and investment issues. The Indo-German Chamber provides excellent service to Indian and German companies who are seeking to explore the other market.

Max Mueller Bhavan is the centre for cultural relations. For over 50 years, Max Mueller Bhavan has established itself not only as the gateway to cultural and intellectual Germany but also as a forum for Indians and Germans to discuss current issues, be it in the area of climate change or urban development.

The German Academic Exchange Service – DAAD – provides scholarships in support of Indian students interested in studying in Germany. In addition, they maintain a strong network of scholars through which they channel cooperation and partnerships between India and Germany. India is developing as an interesting academic destination and DAAD also facilitates many German students who are interested in studying in India.

How has trade and investment exchange between India and Germany been during 2008-09 and what are the key growth areas you foresee in 2010 and beyond?

During 2009 trade between India and Germany has consolidated at a high level. The trade volume between our two countries reached more than 13 billion Euro – let us recall, that in 2003 it was still at around 5 billion Euro! India has become a major market for German companies. Considering the large share of investment goods in German exports to India, one can appreciate the role of Germany in modernizing India’s economy and making it fit to compete in the global economy.

German companies are recognizing the importance of India as a market and as a strategic partner. They are therefore investing heavily in India and I do not foresee any break or dip in this trend regardless of the overall economic situation. When we look at incoming investments to India, we see that Volkswagen opened a manufacturing plant in Pune last year and production has been scaled up over recent months. That is Germany’s flagship investment in India at over EUR 580 million. Coincidentally, this was achieved during the recent economic downturn. It shows how Volkswagen regards the importance of the Indian market over the long term. Mercedes has also announced a major investment in India of the same magnitude.

Are Indian companies looking for partnerships or investing in projects in Germany?

This is a very important point and a major development during my stay here in India.. Indian companies are becoming more and more globalized. They recognize that they have to establish a presence in overseas markets. It is natural for them to look at Europe, not only the United Kingdom but continental Europe as well. When you look at continental Europe, you have to look at Germany, being in the heart of Europe and being connected by excellent infrastructure to other parts of Europe. There are many Indian companies who have invested in Germany and many more that are exploring this possibility. I am pleased that during my tenure in India, there have been many Indian companies that have established their presence in Germany either by partnering with or taking over small and middle-sized companies that are well established in their markets. This helps Indian companies gain access to technology and customers in Europe and is a very sensible and viable way to approach the European market.

How has Germany been able to weather the recent economic downturn? What were the challenges faced during this period?

On one hand, Germany has been affected much more than other countries because we are very dependent on exports. Therefore any difficulties occurring in export markets such as the United States or parts of Europe, affect us greatly.

On the other hand, we have weathered the storm more effectively than other countries for two reasons. The first reason is that we are not highly dependent on the financial sector or the service industry in general, which were the sectors most affected. Germany has a very strong manufacturing industry and this strong base helped us see through the economic decline. The second reason is that we have minimized the effect of the crisis on the employment level through a system of financial support and incentives that helps companies maintain their trained and reliable staff, and therefore allows them to be in a good and ready position when the economy picks up again.

We have seen signs of a forthcoming upswing in the global economy and we aim to position ourselves well for this trend. India continues to be a very important market and economic partner for us and we are quite optimistic that together we will grow out of the economic trough of 2008.

Global warming is a serious issue. How has Germany addressed the situation successfully and how can an emerging nation like India learn from Germany in balancing economic growth and environmental sustainability?

Global warming is a threat to us all. We all have to face the consequences of global warming. In fact, the carbon footprint of a German is still much larger than the carbon footprint of an Indian and we recognize this difference. On the other hand, Germany has been preparing for the challenges headed our way with regards to climate change.  As a mature economy, it is using its technical and financial resources to reduce its emissions. Germany is constantly in the process of fine-tuning its energy production, its industries, its transport and its housing to the needs of carbon reduction. This comprises issues of energy efficiency and alternative sources of energy where Germany is very strong. I think the German industry is providing many excellent solutions and exemplary models for energy reduction and carbon reduction. There is tremendous potential for cooperation between India and Germany in this area.

Let me mention an example for the reduction of carbon emissions in the area of tourism. As you know, bicycling is very popular in Germany. There are many bicycle tracks even in the large cities such as Munich. This reduces overall carbon output and also encourages good health and wellness. But it is also a convenient and eco-friendly way to travel during your vacations. There are many popular long distance bicycle trails such as those along the Ruhr Valley, the Elbe and the Rhine. There are no steep inclines or hassles with traffic. I can only encourage Indians to explore this possibility and try to establish similar bicycle routes in India.

Regarding tourism, tell us about the many centenaries being celebrated in Germany in 2010.

A country with the long and diverse history of Germany is looking forward to major celebrations each and every year. However 2010 certainly offers a particularly rich bouquet of events including a good mix of culture and history.

One of the most important events taking place this September in Munich will be – not the 200th Oktoberfest because there were several years when it was not celebrated – but 200 years since the beginning of this tradition in 1810. It will be a celebration of people, food, beer, music and Bavarian culture.

Another major event taking place this year is the Oberammergau Passion Play festival which takes place every 10 years. This festival dates back to a commitment of the local population during a severe bout of plague in 1633, during the Thirty Years War and draws about 500000 visitors every time it is staged. It is culturally and spiritually one of the most significant events to be seen in Germany.

There are also many events surrounding Essen and the Ruhr Valley which has been chosen as a European Capital of Culture for 2010. There are wonderful art exhibitions taking place such as in Essen’s architecturally brilliant Museum Folkwang which is currently showcasing masterworks of the early 20th Century. The Ruhr Valley also offers stunning industrial and natural landscapes. Coming back to Eco-tourism: You can ride a bicycle along the Ruhr Valley which would be one of the best ways to experience the museums, industrial monuments and natural beauty of the area.

From event centenaries to memorial days for famous Germans, much is happening in Germany in 2010 and we invite everyone to be a part of it.

What are the memories and impressions that you expect people to take back with them after visiting Germany, especially as a tourist?

I hope that visitors  will bring back impressions of a country that is welcoming towards its guests; a country that is open to people from all over the world; a country that is diverse in its own right and offering a vast range of cultural, natural, technical and infrastructural wonders.

What are your predictions for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa?

Germany is certainly a team to beat in the World Cup. There are many strong contenders such as Italy and Brazil so we can definitely look forward to an exciting and suspenseful tournament. I am going to keep my fingers crossed for Germany, just as I am keeping my fingers crossed for the women’s team in the FIFA Women’s World Cup being held in Germany in 2011.

Lastly, your message to the readers:

Germany has something for everyone; from the culturally inclined to the adventurous to the people who just require a break in their hectic schedules. There are not enough words to be spoken or printed on paper to describe the experience of visiting Germany. We invite you to experience it for yourself.