By Aditi Shah, Dhwani Pandya and Sumit Khanna
GANDHINAGAR, India (Reuters) – India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi touted his country’s economic prospects at a business summit in his home state of Gujarat on Wednesday as several big firms unveiled investment plans worth nearly $33 billion.
His pitch comes just months before national elections, in which he will seek a third term, and at a time when global businesses are looking at India to diversify supply chains beyond China.
India is a “powerhouse for talented youth, a technology hub for finding solutions and a democracy that delivers”, Modi told the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, adding that the nation was on its way to becoming the world’s third-largest economy in a few years.
India under Modi has taken steps to encourage global companies to set up their manufacturing units in the country and has ambitions to become a chipmaker for the world despite initial setbacks.
However, Modi’s government has faced criticism for what foreign companies say are protectionist policies that favour domestic firms, and calls for more regulatory discipline.
India projects its economy to grow 7.3% this fiscal year ending March, the highest rate of any of the major global economies, but it still has a large section of unemployed youth which is a key issue in the upcoming elections.
This year’s three-day biennial summit focused on wooing funds for chip and electric vehicle manufacturing where India lags, and has companies including Microsoft, Nasdaq, Alphabet’s Google, Suzuki and Toyota in attendance. Among new investments announced at the summit was a pledge from billionaire Gautam Adani that his conglomerate will invest $24 billion over five years in renewable energy in the state, and a commitment from carmaker Maruti Suzuki to spend 382 billion rupees ($4.60 billion) on a second car plant in Gujarat and a new production line at an existing plant.
Tata Group also said it was close to announcing plans to build a new semiconductor fabrication plant in Gujarat, while UAE’s DP World said it had signed $3 billion worth agreements with the state to develop new ports, terminals and economic zones.
Ahead of the event, Gujarat signed initial investment pactsworth $120 billion with more than 200 companies, including steelmaker ArcelorMittal’s local joint venture.
Modi, who spoke after several executives and billionaires, including two of the world’s richest men Adani and Mukesh Ambani, who praised his leadership, said India’s economy has shown momentum and resilience despite geopolitical troubles around the world.
Among thousands of investors, business leaders and diplomats attending the summit were representatives of Ukraine, who sought investments to help rebuild their war-ravaged country.
India was also seen as strengthening ties with the United Arab Emirates during the summit, with President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in attendance and Modi saying that UAE’s sovereign wealth fund will start operations in Gujarat.
A top official at U.S. stock exchange Nasdaq also told Reuters at the summit that Nasdaq was hopeful that India will finalise rules to allow direct overseas listing of local companies on foreign bourses.
($1 = 82.9950 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Sumit Khanna, Aditi Shah, Dhwani Pandya and Aditya Kalra; Writing by Shivam Patel; Editing by YP Rajesh, Edwina Gibbs and Tomasz Janowski)