Trade winds from India bring promise
Anticipated business meeting aims to curry favour with investors
Belfast could be twinned with a high-powered Indian region in order to fully develop trade links between the regions.
Invest NI and Queen's University have both said the city should look into 'civil linkages' with Madhya Pradesh and Chennai as Belfast prepares itself to host a major conference for India's business leaders and their European counterparts.
Global India Business Meeting, which takes place in the Europa Hotel in June, is being part-funded through a subsidy of £160,000, of which £130,000 is coming from Belfast City Council and the remainder from Invest NI.
Around 350 Indian business leaders will be invited to the two-day event, of whom 250 have already confirmed.
According to minutes from the council's development committee meeting, Invest NI has said Belfast should consider a "civic linkage" with Madhya Pradesh, dubbed India's growth centre because of its growing strength in pharmaceuticals, IT, manufacturing, tourism and also the food industry. Meanwhile, Queen's University has suggested linking up with Chennai, location of the world's largest mobile phone factory as well as a major centre for Xerox and a global manufacturing hub for Samsung.
DUP councillor Christopher Stalford, chairman of Belfast City Council's development committee, said the Global India Business forum offered "huge opportunities".
"We are delighted this forum is taking place in Northern Ireland. India is one of the emerging global market opportunities – one of the few economies that is actually growing in the current climate," he said.
"Belfast already has strong links with India, through local companies doing business there and Indian companies also setting up operations here, and so the potential for further development is huge.
"In 2010, for example, total trade in goods and services between the UK and India was in excess of £13bn, with exports accounting for almost £6bn of this trade.
"It is vital that Belfast does everything in its power to capitalise upon the opportunities which the Indian market affords us, and this event places us in the perfect position to do so."
Invest NI confirmed it was supporting the event.
"It will provide an opportunity to network with key decision-makers from the Indian business community; to develop relationships and build contacts with some of the world's leading companies," it said.