Modi urges Spanish firms to invest in India on second leg of four-nation European tour

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shaking hands with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Madrid, Spain on May 31.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shaking hands with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Madrid, Spain on May 31. PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (AFP) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday (May 31) urged Spanish firms to invest in India, saying the fast-growing country offered "many opportunities" in areas ranging from tourism to energy.

"India is an enormous country and it offers many opportunities to Spanish firms in all sectors," he said in Hindi as he arrived at Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's official residence in Madrid for talks.

"I invite Spanish firms to participate in our development," he added.

Modi, who arrived in Spain late on Tuesday (May 30) from Germany, his first stop on a four-nation Europe tour, was scheduled to meet with King Felipe VI later on Wednesday.

He was also to meet Spanish business leaders as part of his push to drum up more foreign investment in India, the world's fastest-growing major economy.

"Spanish firms are global leaders in sectors that are a priority for us. We want to attract tourism, infrastructure, energy and defence firms," Modi said in an interview published in Spanish business daily Expansion.

Spain is India's seventh-largest trading partner in the European Union.

Two-way trade totalled 4.72 billion euros (S7.33 billion) in 2016, an 8.5 per cent increase over the previous year, of which Spanish exports made up nearly 1.26 billion euros.

The number of Spanish firms that operate in India has risen to over 230 currently from just 70 in 2008.

"Our bilateral relations are becoming more and more intense. I hope this visit spurs deeper ties between our two countries," Rajoy said.

It is the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Spain since Narashima Rao come to the country in 1992.

Modi's tour also leads him to France and Russia - but not to former colonial power Britain.

Britain, which is set to leave the EU by 2019, wants to boost trade with India, which is meanwhile also trying to revive stalled, decade-old trade talks with the EU.