Indian Concern Wants R&D Investments With Israelis

MUMBAI - The head of Reliance Industries, India's largest holding company, yesterday expressed interest in investing in an R&D center with Israeli investors. Reliance chairman and managing director Shri Mukesh Ambani told Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert that he also would like to get involved in developing trade relations between the two countries. Olmert is leading a business delegation to India.

Reliance, with a market cap of $20 billion on the Mumbai exchange, deals in energy and infrastructure projects. It already works with several Israeli companies, including Israel Shipyards, data communications company RAD and optical ethernet startup Atrica.

Members of the Israeli delegation met with Indian businessmen yesterday to discuss various cooperation projects. The delegation includes representatives of high tech, agriculture, communications, banking and the defense industries.

The cancellation of Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's participation in the visit disrupted meetings scheduled for the financial delegation, which was supposed to be involved in arranging financial protocols to assist Israeli companies investing in India to obtain financing from Indian banks at favorable rates. The delegation will visit the high-tech city Bangalore today, and tomorrow it will participate in a business seminar in New Delhi.

Deals worth $40-$50 million will be signed during the visit, Export Institute chairman Shraga Brosh said. However, certain delegation members expressed skepticism regarding the trip, noting that the security-related deals would have been made regardless.

Annual trade between Israel and India is an estimated $1.6 billion, mostly in diamonds. Military trade totals roughly the same amount. Some 700 Israeli companies export to and operate in India, according to Brosh. He estimates that exports will grow by 70 percent over the next four years.

At a press conference yesterday, Indian reporters showered Olmert with political questions. He said that the disengagement plan creates an exceptional opportunity for improving relations with the Palestinians; after a new, stable government is formed in Israel, it will be able to proceed with the withdrawal, which will change the atmosphere in the Middle East.

Olmert said he was not concerned that India's focus on outsourcing would adversely affect Israeli jobs as it supposedly has done in the U.S.

The potential amount that Israeli companies could outsource to India was insignificant, he said.