German industry is "impatient" to invest in India and trade between the two countries could be doubled within five years, German Chancellor Schröder said Wednesday, the first of a two-day visit to Delhi.
Welcome to India!
Addressing Indian business leaders in Delhi on Wednesday, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said he was confident last year's €5 billion ($6.16 billion) record bilateral trade figures could be surpassed.
"Experts think it is realistic to double this figure in the next five, six, seven years and I think that is realistic," Schröder said.
Latest Indian government figures show an increase of 15 percent in bilateral trade volumes already this year.
Praise for Singh's economic reforms
Schröder, center, with President of Indian industry, Sunil Kant Munjal left, and the head of the Indian Industry and Commerce Chamber, Yogendra Kumar Modi in Delhi.
The chancellor arrived in Delhi early Wednesday at the start of a wider Asia tour that will take him to Pakistan, Vietnam and Afghanistan to explore opportunities for German industry among Asia's fast-growing economies.
Schröder had praise for his new Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, considered the architect of India's economic liberalization reforms begun in the early 1990s. Singh was sworn in as prime minister earlier this year after his Congress party surprisingly won the general elections, unseating the Hindu nationalist Bharatija Janata Party (BJP).
Manmohan Singh, Indian Prime Minister
"I am sure the courageous reforms Prime Minister Manmohan Singh initiated a decade ago will attract more foreign direct investments which is in our interest," Schröder said, adding that it will also help to modernize India.
"These changes are making your country attractive in the German eye and I think it is in our mutual interest," he told business lobby groups Confederation of Indian Industries and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
"A market of one billion people"
The chancellor, who is accompanied by a large high-profile business and scientific delegation, said there was also scope for cooperation with India's entertainment and biotechnology industries.
Germany is ranked fourth after the United States, Mauritius and Britain when it comes to foreign direct investment in India and is also India's second largest trading partner within the European Union.
"We have to convince our entrepreneurs that it will be beneficial to invest in India, the world's largest democracy and a market of one billion people," the chancellor said.
Schröder also praised India's efforts in World Trade Organization (WTO) discussions and promised Germany's backing on issues such as the removal of agricultural subsidies.
"India has played an important role in the WTO and we support that," he said. "We also need to pool our resources because India is important, its voice is heard among fledgling economies."
Benefits for both countries
The chancellor is scheduled to meet Indian President Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Singh on Thursday before heading off to Pakistan.
Indian authorities also indicated that the visit of the German chancellor, the first EU head of state to visit India's new government, was of great significance.
"India attaches special importance to its relations with Germany and is eager to expand and intensify bilateral relations to a level befitting the strategic relations between the two countries," the Indian foreign ministry said in an earlier statement.
Germany's ambassador to India, Heimo Richter, said the high-level visit, the second by Schröder to New Delhi since 2001, packed benefits for both countries. "High-ranking visits are the most effective instrument in the toolbox of 'public diplomacy,' the most promising means to obtain attention, to induce stock-taking about the state of bilateral relations and the changing reality of the other country," Richter said in an embassy publication ahead of the trip.