Business as bridge

Print edition : May 06, 2005

Wen Jiabao's visit to Bangalore with a high-profile delegation underlines the emerging trade relations and collaboration in science and technology between the two countries.

PARVATHI MENON in Bangalore

Wen Jiabao at the office of Huawei India Limited in Bangalore. Visiting the IT capital of India, he said China and India could herald an "Asian century" and lead the world's infotech business if they worked together. Huawei is China's largest telecommunications network technology provider and the only Chinese technology company to have a software development centre in India.-BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The new equation between India and China is set to rest on the bedrock of business and trade ties and collaboration in the fields of science and technology. The choice of Bangalore as the only city outside of New Delhi that Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao chose to visit on his four-day visit to India firmly established this aspect of emerging bilateral relations. The official Chinese delegation that accompanied Wen Jiabao to India's information technology (IT) capital included a high-profile business delegation representing over 140 Chinese companies.

The potential for economic growth through IT could best be exploited by India and China if they marry their respective strengths - India's in software and China's in hardware. "If India and China cooperate, it will signify the coming of the Asian century in IT... that day will come", the Chinese Premier said in his address at the Global Development Centre of Tata Consultancy Service (TCS) in Bangalore. The theme of cooperation between the two Asian giants was one he would revisit at every stop in the city - the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and Huawei India, the largest overseas Research and Development facility of Huawei Technologies, a Chinese software giant. Wen Jiabao's delegation also met a delegation of senior Karnataka officials led by the state's Chief Minister N.Dharam Singh. Indeed, the idea of cooperation between the two Asian giants in science and business became the leit-motif of Wen'shis visit and laid the basis for many of the agreements formalized in the following days in New Delhi. "Our joint efforts in collaborating in IT and business will symbolize the future prosperity and well being of our two great nations", Wen Jiabao said.

The Chinese premier chose to visit TCS in Bangalore - the only IT company he visited in the city - because it has already operationalised the kind of collaboration he envisages. Overcoming the very real problems of setting up shop in a country that is so different in its politics, culture, business environment and language, TCS -- India's largest IT services company -- has made a huge financial success of its China venture. The Chinese premier was given an overview of the India's IT industry as well as of TCS's operations in China by S. Ramadorai, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of TCS and his team. TCS set up Tata Information Technology (Shanghai) Co., a wholly owned subsidiary, in Shanghai in June 2002. Subsequently, it set up its Global Delivery Centre in Hangzhou. The Centre has over 200 associates including more than 150 Chinese nationals.

China has made rapid strides in IT. Its domestic IT services market is pegged at US$4 billion, against India's US$2 billion. China expects to double her domestic market by 2008. China, Wen Jiabao said, produced 100 million cell phones, from just five million a few years ago. "Now China has almost 100 million computers and the number of internet users has reached 100 million. People say the development of the IT industry depends on two factors - the brain, or human resources, and the market. Our countries have a lot of intelligent people and the world provides an ever broadening market,". the Prime Minister said.

At a meeting - briefly marred by a Tibetan protester who managed to breach the security cordon and unfurl a Free Tibet flag from atop the clock tower - with senior scientists from leading institutes of science like the IISc, Raman Research Institute, National Centre for Biological Science, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre, and the National Aeronautical Laboratories, the Chinese prime minister elaborated on the theme of scientific cooperation in areas that ranged from chip design to the designing of large aircraft. He said that after taking over office, he had met at least 2000 scientists across China to help formulate a comprehensive plan for the country's scientific development.

"The Chinese delegation indicated some areas in which they are interested in collaboration, and we too identified some areas", IISc Director Goverdhan Mehta told Frontline. "One of the areas we suggested was astronomy, both optical and radio astronomy, where we have large facilities. We also proposed collaboration in the areas of genomics, nanoscience and micro electromechanical systems (MEMS). So it was an exchange of ideas really, a framework for collaboration which would have to be concretised finally at the government level. The Prime Minister did suggest the setting up of a steering group to carry these ideas forward. He was, on the whole, very positive, and wanted science and technology to be the instruments that would build a friendship bridge between India and China".

In their robust and largely home-grown space programmes and industry, India and China share a common commitment to frontier applications of science and technology. India and China already have some collaboration in the area. ISRO had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Chinese National Space Agency on cooperation in the application of space for peaceful purposes. Teams from each country had visited the other to share experiences and identify areas of cooperation.

During his visit to the ISRO headquarters Wan Jiabao was briefed on the Indian space programme by ISRO Chairman G.Madhavan Nair. "It was a good visit and we can expect some positive things to come out of it. He appreciated the progress made by ISRO in space technology and research and also drew some parallels in the programmes in our two countries. Our moon mission for one, but also our determination to pursue our own priorities and needs."

The Chinese Premier spent about 40 minutes at the facility of Huawei Technologies at the Leela Palace. According to Ren Zhengfei, President and CEO of the company, Huawei's global sales volume will exceed US$ 7.8 billion in 2005, of which overseas sales volume will be over US$4.2 billion. Huawei India was set up in 1999 and has an 800 strong workforce. It is the largest overseas R&D centre of Huawei Technologies. The company plans for fresh investments in its software development facility and hopes to set up a manufacturing plant in India. Huawei plans to enhance its efforts in the next three years to strengthen and expand its international market, especially in the domains of 3G, broadband and Next Generation Network.

The affable and smiling Wan Jiabao received a warm reception in Bangalore. He was received at the airport by the Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh and the Karnataka Governor, T.N. Chaturvedi. The Chinese delegation met senior officers of the Karnataka government before they started the day's engagements. The state delegation put forward a proposal for China to share its expertise in dry land development and also to develop collaboration in the area of power generation.

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