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Civil aviation to be the new focus of Indo-US high-tech collaboration Print E-mail
Written by Anand   
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
New Delhi: Indian and US companies will be increasingly looking at innovative models to harness opportunities in aviation sector. This will include aircraft and aircraft components, air traffic management, maintenance, repairs and overhaul, aviation safety, security and capacity building.

This was stated by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao at the eighth meeting of the India-US High Technology Co-operation Group (HTCG) co-organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the US-India Business Council (USIBC) here on Monday. The last meeting of the group was held in Washington in March 2010.

Speaking on the occasion, US Under-Secretary of Industry, Department of Commerce, Eric Hirschhorn, said that there was a lot of interest on the issue of dual use technology even though a miniscule percentage of US exports came under that category—less than 1 per cent. Even in that, 99 per cent of the applications of US companies for licences to export dual use items to India had been cleared, he said. This year many Indian entities have also been removed from the Entity List which is set to spur high-technology trade between the two countries.

Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia on this occasion gave a broad overview of the role of advanced technology and innovation in the country’s development plans. Foreign direct investment (FDI), he said, was the most stable form of long-term capital inflow and we needed more of that specially in high-technology areas. Development of infrastructure will be a high priority for the government in the next five years, he stressed.

Mr Hirschhorn complimented the Indian and US business communities for having been the driving forces behind the growing relations between the two countries. In the past nine years since HTCG was set up in 2002, defence and strategic trade between India and the US had gone up tremendously, he said. It was the result of the efforts of this group that defence sales to US companies had gone up from negligible till some time back to $8 billion now, said Mr Hirschhorn.

While commenting that there was a shared perception that HTCG had “in a sense underperformed and underachieved, especially with regard to the commercial sectors”, foreign secretary Rao underlined the indispensability of the group in deepening co-operation and addressing mutual concerns in the areas of strategic and defence trade, including the actual working of the licensing regime. She emphasized that private sector will increasingly become an important player in defence production. “While the focus has been on conventional trade and market access, we must now focus equally on promoting co-operation in research and development (R&D), design, commercialization and production,” she said.

Addressing the inaugural session of the meeting, Director General of CII, Chandrajit Banerjee, said that four key areas of focus for the group would be intellectual property rights (IPR) related issues, R&D, capacity building and awareness and outreach. He called for setting up of an Indo-US Industrial R&D Fund--on the lines of Indo-US Science & Technology Endowment Fund--to spread awareness about investment in R&D.

President of USIBC, Ron Somers, said on the occasion that the goal of the group was to establish relevancy and a lot had been achieved in the past nine years in the areas of telecom, power, information technology and insurance. He attributed the success of the Indian telecom industry to private equity investors in the US who he said identified the potential of the market and made early investments in key companies to spur their growth. Public-private partnerships were a concept emerging out of the initiatives of groups such as HTCG, he said. He exhorted Indian companies to identify areas of co-operation in nano-technology, bio-technology and homeland security so that specific targets could be set.

Devin Narang, senior member of the FICCI national executive committee lauded the progress made by HTCG in the past nine years and reaffirmed the chamber’s commitment to rendering practical assistance in realizing the full potential of the Indo-US undertaking. To this end he stressed the need for strengthening of the B2B mechanism and called for a more favourable regulatory framework for investment.

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