India: Doing Business in India : Considerations From a Switzerland-India Tax Perspective

1. Swiss - India Relations: Background

India's traditional policy of non-alignment and the Swiss policy of neutrality, coupled with shared values of democracy and rule of law have forged close ties between the two countries.

Swiss-India economic relationship dates back to the 1850s, when Volkart Trading Co set up offices in Basel and Bombay. Since then, there has been a continuous rise in trade and investment flow between the two countries.

Switzerland is India's 9th largest trading partner with total bilateral trade including merchandise exports, bullion, IT services, and software export, amounting to approximately USD 20 billion in 2017-18.1

Switzerland is also India's 11th largest investor, accounting for approximately 1.14% of the total FDI in India from April 2000 to March 2018. In fact, FDI from Switzerland into India is estimated to be approximately USD 4.31 billion during 2005 – 2016, which is no surprise considering that over 250 Swiss companies have a presence in India either through their own subsidiaries or joint ventures.2 Keeping in mind that much investment in India is routed through other countries, the Swiss National Bank actually estimates investment into India at a much higher USD 7.71 billion during 2005-2016.3 Further, recent reform initiatives by India have created greater opportunities for Swiss companies especially in sectors like clean technology, life sciences, precision engineering, medtech, financial services and fintech, construction materials and equipment, consumer goods, railways and defense. To further boost FDI, the Indian Embassy in Berne has also initiated the "Momentum of India: Swiss SMEs Programme" which aims to facilitate the entry of Swiss SMEs into the Indian market.

A number of bilateral agreements and institutional arrangements have also been executed between India and Switzerland including:

  • Swiss-India Joint Economic Commission (1959)
  • Swiss-India Collaboration in Biotechnology (1999)
  • Agreement for Avoidance of Double Taxation (1994, amended in 2000 and 2010)
  • Agreement for Promotion and Protection of Investments (1997)
  • Agreement on Social Security (2009)
  • Swiss-India Joint Committee on Science & Technology (2011)
  • Swiss-India Financial Dialogue (2011)
  • MoU on Mutual Cooperation in Local Gov-ernance (2011)
  • MoU for Development Cooperation (2011)
  • Joint Declaration on the introduction of the Automatic Exchange of Information on Tax Matters (2016)
  • Letter of Intent for Sister State Agreement between the State of Andhra Pradesh and the Canton of Zurich (2018)

Further, the Swiss Embassy has taken a biennial initiative for 2017 and 2018 – "70 Years of Swiss- Indian Friendship: Connecting Minds – Inspiring the Future." This initiative aims at presenting cutting edge innovations where both Switzerland and India can mutually benefit. The new initiative is in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the bilateral friendship treaty signed in 1948, and will provide an excellent opportunity to further strengthen the good bilateral economic relations between the two countries. Such initiatives poise India and Switzerland to see enhanced economic cooperation as well as an increase in trade and investment flows.

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Footnote

Embassy of India, Berne, India-Switzerland Relations. Available at: http://www.indembassybern.gov.in/page/india-switzerland/

2. Id.

3. Id.

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