India and Switzerland today discussed the activation of automatic exchange of information relating to black money stashed by Indians in secret accounts in Swiss banks. The issue figured prominently during talks between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis here, officials said. Black money has been a major issue in India and banks in Switzerland have long been perceived as one of the safest havens to park such funds due to their their famed secrecy walls for years.
“Following on Indian government’s drive to curb black money, the ministers discussed the activation of automatic exchange of information,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement. A key parliamentary panel in Switzerland last year had approved an automatic information exchange pact between the two countries. The information that could be exchanged under this framework would include account number, name, address, date of birth, tax identification number, interest, dividend, receipts from insurance policies, credit balance in accounts and proceeds from sale of financial assets.
The MEA said both sides also reviewed the progress on trade and economic partnership agreement which India and the European free trade area countries are currently negotiating. “The two ministers reiterated their strong commitment to early finalization of the agreement while showing flexibility on each other’s concerns,” it said. The MEA said Swaraj and Cassis held “cordial discussions” on various aspects of bilateral ties as well as important regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.
They also took stock of the cooperation in key areas of interest such as trade and investment, education, information technology and tourism. The annual bilateral trade has reached around USD 20 billion in last financial year. “Closer cooperation in the areas of skill development, renewable energy, traditional Indian medicine and climate change has the potential of mutual benefit and positive contribution at the global level,” the MEA said.
It said Switzerland recognizes Ayurveda as a system of medicine and the two ministers discussed ways to make it more popular in the European country. The Swiss Foreign Minister is scheduled to visit Varanasi tomorrow.