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June 6, 1998


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Indian businessmen seek review of sanctions

A delegation of leading Indian businessmen, currently on a visit to the United States, has approached congressmen for a review of the recently imposed nuclear-related economic sanctions on India in the overall interest of Washington-New Delhi and investment relations.

The delegation, led by N Sankar, chairman of the Madras-based Sanmar Group, told a press conference in Washington yesterday that it wanted to give the impression that it was business as usual in India, despite the sanctions and apparent tension between India and the US.

Sankar argued with congressmen that the sanctions, imposed by the Clinton administration after India's May 11 and 13 nuclear tests, should not be interpreted in a way to kill the growth in trade and business sectors. The curbs should be limited to defence-oriented industries, leaving rest of the economic activity untouched, he added.

Sankar said they found the lawmakers receptive to their arguments that the trade between the two countries should be protected, particularly at a time when it had shown an upbeat trend. For the first time, Indo-US annual trade had crossed $10 billion mark.

They explained to congressmen that the US curbs might affect the seven-year-old process of liberalisation in India. Eonomic reforms had paid rich dividends in terms of annual economic growth that, for the first time, had touched seven per cent after having after stagnated at around four per cent for years.

He said the new government had promised to carry forward the reform process and double the inflow of foreign investment from around $3 billion a year at present to $6 billion in a shortest possible time.

Sankar said they could not meet the representatives of the Clinton administration during the current visit. However, they did interact with the US Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater at the council session where he spoke of increasing investment in India's transportation and infrastructure sector.

> Sankar, who's group currently has a record nine joint ventures in place with US companies, said the delegation would also visit other places in the US to interact with the business community and apprise them about the trade and investment prospects in India and the facilities available there.

He said he did not find any kind of hesitation among the US companies that have invested in India. New investors, however, might have second thoughts in the wake of the economic sanctions, he added.

He said the European countries' refusal to impose punitive sanctions on India might help moderate the US stance. Lobbying efforts by these companies, which had investments in India, would also help. These companies are currently waiting for the guidelines that the administration is busy drawing up to interpret the law concerning the sanctions.

Sankar said it will be difficult for the United States to ignore India for a long spell because of the size of the market.

Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries general secretary Dr Amit Mitra, who accompanied the delegation, said he did not meet any company in the US that wanted to pull out of India. What impressed him most was the large turnout at the council meetings.

He said India had organised an investment summit in Calcutta recently which attracted a large number of business leaders from various parts of the world. A similar show is planned in Madras shortly to introduce foreign investors to the economic prospects available in the southern part of the country.


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