The Dubai ports operator DP World is "very upbeat" on India, the company's country head said yesterday, as the Indian government held its first maritime summit in an effort to attract more foreign investment.

"We believe that while the rest of the world is treading water, this is the place for investment," said Anil Singh, the senior vice president at DP World. "We're very upbeat about what is happening under the new Modi government. If you had spoken to us a few years ago, we weren't as bullish as we are today."

The three-day Maritime India Summit was inaugurated by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, who highlighted his aim for the shipping and ports sector to become an "engine of growth of India" and outlined plans to mobilise 1 trillion rupees (Dh55.19 billion) of investment into the country's ports sector to help boost economic growth.

DP World in February unveiled plans to invest more than US$1 billion in India to expand its container terminals business. This announcement came during a three-day visit by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, to the country.

"The UAE and India are very strong partners," said Mr Singh. He said that there was "a new energy" and efforts under way to make it easier to do business in the country.

DP World has already invested $1.2bn in India to date.

It is the largest container terminal operator in the country, operating facilities in Gujarat and Kerala, as well as a train service for cargo.

To coincide with the summit, DP World launched a competition for Indian maritime start-ups. It awarded 1.5 million rupees of funding to the winner, Sagar Defence Engineering, which is developing unmanned vessels.

"It's a huge push for us," said Nikunj Parashar, the director of Sagar, based in Mumbai. The new company has already developed an unmanned boat for the Indian navy. Mr Parashar said that he plans to put the funds towards building and testing a new vessel.

Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), which is owned by DP World, is also participating in the maritime summit in Mumbai.

"We're very sure that given the Make in India perspective of the government of India we can add a lot of value, where our clients and our customers who are based out of Dubai can produce their goods in India and then use Dubai as a hub for their global distribution," a Jafza executive said.

The Dubai free zone has more than 800 companies of Indian origin operating out of it.

"I call upon the global business community to partner with us to give shape to our process of port-led development," Mr Modi said.

The summit organisers said that they expected $12bn of deals to be signed during the event.

Source: The National