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WORLD

India takes stage as global player

From Satinder Bindra
CNN New Delhi Bureau Chief

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Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram.

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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- After years of economic isolation, India is finally modernizing rapidly and integrating its economy with the rest of the world.

And with annual economic growth rates of 7 percent to 8 percent and newly emerging spending habits, the world is taking notice.

"India is on everybody's radar screen, so it's a good place to be when exciting things are going on," says Boeing's Anil Shrikhande.

Shrikhande recently moved to India from the U.S., citing what he sees as huge economic opportunities for Boeing.

The world's largest aerospace company will soon be selling India 50 planes -- an order worth an estimated $7 billion.

Such business potential has been driving the U.S. and other Western countries to establish closer ties with India.

In August, New Delhi won U.S. President George W. Bush's approval to get U.S. fuel for its nuclear reactors -- an agreement many regard as Washington's recognition of India's nuclear status.

Analysts say closer U.S. ties with India could serve as a counterfoil to the growing power of China.

Aware of its rising strategic significance, New Delhi has been pressing the United States to push its case for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Washington still has its reservations on that push, however. But recently during the tsunami both countries showcased their growing defense co-operation. Indian and U.S. ships brought in relief for thousands of victims.

Shrikhande wants to cash in on this new partnership. He hopes to sell India 120 F-18 fighter planes.

"How the world can't care about India!" he says.

"It's a billion-plus people on the verge of not just regional power status, but it's really started to play on the global stage."

Globally India's technology skills are also making a huge impact. More and more sophisticated work is being outsourced to India.

But technology is still a very tiny part of the Indian economy and the country clearly needs more resources to tackle poverty.

"I think if we can enhance the flow of investment both domestic and foreign direct investment we can easily achieve 8 [percent] to 9 percent growth,'' says Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram.

It's a wish, but many Indians are optimistic and confident of building a nation they say will soon be a global power.

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