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Infosys Technologies plans to hire 6,000 software programmers in China to manage what the Indian company says will be large and sustained demand for its technology services.

Many will be based at a $15m software development centre to be built on a 100,000 sq m site in Hangzhou near Shanghai, where Infosys is also investing $10m to expand another facility.

Infosys’ move is the boldest recruitment drive yet by an Indian IT company in China, whose premier, Wen Jiabao, during a visit to Bangalore in April, expressed admiration for the country’s rise as a commercially successful technology power.

Software executives in Bangalore say China’s cultivation of Indian IT was also designed to acquire the skills to replicate India’s global IT model in China. In June, for example, Tata Consultancy Services, the largest Indian IT company, signed a three-way pact with Microsoft and several Chinese state agencies to “reproduce what we do in India in China”, said Mr S Ramadorai, TCS’s chief executive.

The push by Indian companies into China’s $30bn technology services industry, which is slightly bigger than India’s, is at an early stage. But the widening of bilateral ties in the technology sector contrasts with continuing nervousness within the political and security establishment in New Delhi.

Those fears emerged at a meeting of senior Indian civil servants on July 25, when one security official expressed serious concern about the presence in India of Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer. The minutes of the meeting were obtained by the FT.

However, Indian IT chiefs last week told Chinese leaders, including Zhang Geng, chief of the administration commission of Hangzhou hi-tech zone, where TCS is a tenant, that they wished to trade Indian IT skills in exchange “for collaboration in your IT projects in China”.

Observers said this was a clear pitch for a share of China’s huge domestic IT market.

Infosys, which already employs 290 programmers in China, will add 1,750 staff by 2007. The Hangzhou centre will have a capacity for 6,000.

“China has a vast talent pool, which we want to draw on. This is at the heart of our strategy to add China to our global delivery model, enabling us to use China as another base for services to global customers as well as within Asia,” said James Lin, Infosys’ China head.

Infosys’ bold confidence in China is shared by other Indian companies, some of which last week laid out their ambitions in discussions with Chinese officials in Beijing and Shanghai.

TCS, the first Indian IT company to enter China, plans a similar but unspecified scale of expansion. TCS employs 250 in China, where its customers include General Electric.

“We know the Chinese want to learn from us. The best way they can do this is by allowing us to collaborate with them in technology projects they procure from state or provincial agencies,” said Rajendra Pawar, chairman of NIIT, an IT education provider that has been in China for nine years.

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