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Indian ambassador visits Nashua business

NASHUA - Here is the word from India to its many natives who have moved to New Hampshire: Get involved in your new community.

That was the message from India's ambassador to the U.S., Meera Shankar, who on Friday toured the sort of company she believes can help her country grow, as well as benefit commerce in New Hampshire.

The company, ARC Energy, was founded by Kedar Gupta, one of New Hampshire's best-known entrepreneurs. Gupta, who moved to the United States from India in 1968, showed Shankar and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., how his business grows crystals for energy-efficient light systems.

Between seeing ARC Energy and hearing about the technologies and social programs of several other New Hampshire companies and organizations, Shankar had a lot to praise.

She enthused about India strengthening trade with the U.S. and New Hampshire through those companies, and praised the social programs for making a difference in local communities.

Shankar also urged the Indian diaspora to "try to integrate themselves and be active in their local community. They should imbibe in the entrepreneurial spirit of America."

With the values of their homeland and their adopted soil, Indians in New Hampshire should "contribute to both India and the U.S.," she said.

Shaheen, a former state governor, invited Shankar to New Hampshire when they met last year in Washington, D.C. The ambassador was joined on the trip by her husband, Ajay Shankar, a former industry secretary of India.

Shankar and Shaheen touted an open channel of trade between New Hampshire and India, promoting how both economies would benefit.

Trade officials estimate export activity supports more than 40,000 jobs in the state, but that it could improve between India and New Hampshire, Shaheen's office said.

India ranks as the state's 26th-largest trading partner; last year, New Hampshire sold about $17 million in goods to India, Shaheen's office said.

More than a dozen people from business, education and social work squeezed into an ARC Energy conference room to hear Shankar describe how India is faring.

Despite the global recession, India's economy fared well, Shankar said. Last year brought 6.7 percent economic growth, and 8.5 percent growth is predicted for this year, she said.

Still, Shankar said, many in India face poverty. Sixty percent of the overall population lives outside major cities, and developing those rural areas commercially and socially are the keys to India succeeding in the new century, she said.

Technology in particular would help deliver social services to those in India's rural areas, Shankar said.

Developing the nation's infrastructure is also top on the list of improvements, she said.

India's growth hasn't been dependent on exports, but the offerings of the companies in the U.S. and New Hampshire should be considered, she said.

The Nashua area has become home to a sizable number of Indian immigrants. Gupta, who co-founded GT Solar, is among the best known.

Although no precise data are available, the U.S. Census Bureau found that in 2008, 1.9 percent of the state's population is Asian, a grouping that includes Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other nationalities.

When asked how those in India feel about its citizens faring well in the United States rather than back home, Shankar said she doesn't consider it a "brain drain."

"I call it brain circulation," she said.