FREMONT -- Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan has been appointed to lead a city delegation on a trade mission to India, solidifying her role as a Fremont advocate and strengthening the city's ties with a nation that is a rising economic force.
The trip, tentatively scheduled for November, is being planned as Fremont and India have been recognized as growing global business players that excel in tech and manufacturing industries.
"For years, India was on the shortlist of nations with emerging economies and, now, they've emerged," Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison said.
Fremont has made similar strides and now is seen as an equal among Silicon Valley cities in the region's tech sector. Harrison said those similarities, and the fact that Natarajan was raised in India, prompted him to appoint her to spearhead the delegation.
India has more than 1 billion residents and the world's 11th largest economy. In Fremont, nearly 1 in 5 of 217,000 residents are Indian-American, and two serve on the five-member City Council.
"I've been approached by local businesses who want to foster that relationship between Fremont and India," Harrison said. "And we want to play the hand that we have with the city's tremendous Indian population."
The trip's preliminary plans include a visit to three Indian cities: Jaipur, Chennai and Bangalore.
Jaipur, one of Fremont's sister cities, is in north India, near Delhi. Chennai, set on the southern coast, is a manufacturing hub, while Bangalore, which is Natarajan's hometown, is India's technology base.
"She has a lot of contacts over there that will help us, so I think it's a good fit," Harrison said.
Later this summer, Natarajan said she will spend her own money to travel to Bangalore, partly as vacation and partly to do prep work for the official trip in the fall.
The trip's details are still being worked out, she said, but preliminary plans call for her to be joined by another council member and a few staff employees. The trip, which is expected to last 10 to 12 days, "will have specific goals and targets," said Natarajan, a Fremont council member since 2004.
Natarajan lost the mayoral election to Harrison last November, but she since has carved out a niche as one of the city's key voices, serving on regional boards and traveling to tout Fremont's economic strength. It's a role somewhat similar to the one recently played by Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state for President Barack Obama after he defeated her in 2008.
Natarajan shrugged off the comparison Wednesday, before adding: "I've enjoyed playing a regional role for Fremont. It's something I'm passionate about."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.