Spanish crown prince calls for closer ties with India

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Spain's Crown Prince Felipe on Tuesday urged Madrid to build closer ties with with fast-growing India, which he described as as a "giant" on the world stage.

"During all my visits to India I left fascinated and convinced that we should move closer to this giant," he told a gathering in Madrid of leaders of top Indian firms.

"In my last visit, which was very short, I could feel the vital pulse of a modern emerging power that is carrying out a growing leadership role on the world stage.

"We have indeed come a long way but a lot needs to be done," he added.

The prince last visited India in November 2009 together with his wife Letizia. Their two-day official visit included stops in Bombay and New Delhi.

Exports from Spain to India have doubled from 381 million euros (471 million dollars) in 2004 to almost 800 million euros last year, according to Spain's industry and trade ministry.

During this period the number of Spanish firms operating in India has increased from 40 to over 140.

Last week Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Madrid needed to make a greater effort to tap into the Indian market, which she said had "enormous potential".

"I think it is an especially important effort for our country at a moment when our biggest priority is to increase our industrial investment and create jobs," she added.

Spain's unemployment rate has soared to 20 percent, the highest rate in the 27-nation European Union after Latvia's, following the collapse of the labour-intensive construction sector at the end of 2008.

The Spanish economy, Europe's fifth-largest, only emerged from recession with tepid 0.1 percent growth in the first quarter this year.

By contrast the Indian economy, Asia's largest after Japan and China, expanded by 6.5 percent in the 2008-2009 fiscal year and the government predicts it could reach double-digit growth by 2013.

© 2010 AFP

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