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Friday, 17 March, 2000, 17:36 GMT
India's high-tech hopes
PC screen
Software trade with the US stands at $5bn currently
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

The software business is the one sector of the Indian economy which has thrived the most in recent years.

Not even the most die-hard sceptic would disagree that a major factor behind the success of the industry has been its close contact with the US.


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The US computer industry is served by an extensive pool of skilled Indian professionals and India's IT sector growth has been largely driven by the availability of US technology first and then by huge orders from US firms which decided to outsource their service work to Indian companies. Indo-US software trade stands at $5bn currently and is projected to grow at an annual rate of about 60 % in the next decade.

Opportunity

Debang Mehta, president of the national association of software and services companies (Nasscom), told BBC News Online that President Bill Clinton had gone on record saying that one reason for his Indian visit is to take a first-hand view of the IT industry here



We are not letting this opportunity slip by

Debang Mehta of the national software association
"We are not letting this opportunity slip by. The Nasscom is doing a presentation on the Indian IT scene for the US president in Delhi next Wednesday which should give an extra push to the Indo-US software trade," says Mehta.

Mr Clinton wil be going to India's newest cyber-city, Hyderabad in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

According to Narayan Murthy, the chairman of software giant Infosys, the forthcoming visit is perhaps the first time when Indo-US relations are being put on a trade platform rather than a political platform.

"The fact that he is visiting a state (Andhra Pradesh) where the chief minister (Chandrababu Naidu) symbolises a modern mindset proves it," Murthy told the Indian Express in an interview.

Visas

The Indian software industry is also keen to use the Clinton visit to secure some concessions and get certain restrictions lifted.

According to the Nasscom chief, Deband Mehta, the industry wants a "totality agreement" between the US and India which would save Indian professionals in the US from paying double taxation for social security.

The industry also wants that the number of H1-B visas granted to Indian professionals to be nearly doubled from the existing 100,000 per annum (of which 90% are issued to IT professionals only) and the introduction of trade treaty visas or "even visas" for software professionals which would give a further fillip to Indo-US trade in the IT sector.

Industry experts believe that the Indian IT sector - given sweeping concessions by the government in last month's budget - could well witness another boom in the wake of the exposure it gets because of the Clinton visit.

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Clinton in South Asia
Click here for a guide to President Clinton's tour
Key stories:
What did the trip achieve?
Protecting the president
South Asia's nuclear race
Clinton and the Kashmir question
Economic ties:
Americans eye South Asia
India's high-tech hopes
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See also:

15 Feb 00 | South Asia
Clinton calls on cyber city
21 Jun 99 | The Economy
Internet helps make rich richer
04 Feb 00 | South Asia
Technology shares ride firm
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