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Chidambaram charms Brussels

'The India story' presented by FM has won over EU officials, policy makers and members of the business community.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2006 18:20 IST

'The India story' presented by Finance Minister P Chidambaram in Brussels has won over European Union officials, policy makers and members of the European business community.

"Infrastructure is a deficit for India but an opportunity for investors," Chidambaram told European business leaders at an investment meet Monday evening.

He also stressed that India was an exciting and interesting opportunity for investors owing to "reforms embedded in a democratic polity, equitable society and inclusiveness".

Attractive incentives for foreign investment, the finance minister noted, were India's commercial laws, its best banking system, the finely tuned financial services sector and its free imports and exports.

He underlined India's comparative advantage in the IT sector, announced plans to turn the country into a manufacturing hub and reassured the business community that the Indian rupee was virtually convertible for foreign investors.

Chidambaram also met the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Joaquin Almunia, and discussed EU-India economic and commercial relations.

"The EU has expressed a desire for greater engagement with India," he said and mentioned the possibility of upgrading EU-India relations with an interactive macroeconomic dialogue.

Amelia Torres, Almunia's spokesperson, told INEP agency that the commissioner "enjoyed a good and fruitful meeting" with Chindabaram.

"One of the features of the dialogue is to meet regularly and discuss economic trends and common challenges of the world economy. This could add to the ongoing dialogue in the context of the action plan; the economic chapter focused on finance and regulatory issues," she said.

The minister managed to squeeze in a brief meeting with representatives of Antwerp's Indian community who control around 60 percent of Belgium's $36 billion trade in rough and polished diamonds.

Mukul Joshi, managing director of the Belgium-based diamond firm, Belindiam, as well as a board member of the diamond industry's main regulating body, the High Diamond Council, said the minister was updated on the Belgium government's initiative to stimulate Antwerp's diamond sector.

Chidambaram concluded his one-day visit with an impressive and lucid outline of Indian economy at a lecture organised by the Brussels-based think tank, the European Policy Centre, in cooperation with the Japanese Saskawa Foundation.

The minister noted that although India's gross domestic product (GDP) was growing at about 8 per cent annually, the manufacturing and non-industrial sectors reported a growth of 10 per cent over the last 11 quarters while the agricultural industry's growth was restricted to 4 per cent.

Growth, the minister said, was imperative to India's economy. "Growth is needed to fight poverty," he said, adding: "Only high growth would provide jobs for 8 million youth that enter India's job market every year.