Washington, Jan 28 (PTI) Newly sworn in Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has said he wants to take his first trade mission to India as part of his efforts to increase business relationship and strengthen people-to-people ties with the country. Also Read - Republic Day Violence: Delhi Court Sends Actor-Activist Deep Sidhu To 14-Day Judicial Custody

Northam, who was sworn in less than a fortnight ago, said this in his address to the Republic Day celebrations organised by the India Association of Virginia in Richmond. Also Read - Emma Coronel, Wife of ‘El Chapo’ Who Helped Him Escape From Prison Arrested on Drug Charges

“I look forward to a trade mission to India. In fact, I want to take my first trade mission to India,” Northam told several hundred Indian-Americans gathered at a high school in Richmond, in his first address to the Indian-American community after being sworn in as the State Governor. Also Read - International Flight News: Fly to Maldives Directly From THIS City | Check New Flights by Air India, Vistara, SpiceJet

Later he told reporters that the dates of his trip have not been finalised yet and it is still in the planning stage.

“India is an important trading partner for Virginia and there are a number of areas where there is great scope for co-operation,” Northam said.

Senator Tim Kaine, who was the Governor of Virginia between 2006-2010, welcomed the decision of Northam, saying he is “looking forward” to his next visit to India.

Rajbans Joshi, President of the India Association of Virginia (IAVA), saw the move as a step towards improving the India-US relationship.

“The Governor’s decision to take a trade mission to India is reflective of his desire to improve India US relationship.

Indian-Americans in Virginia can play an important role in enhancing this trade ties,” Joshi said.

Dr Bimaljit Singh Sandhu, who was recently given a key role by Northam in his new State administration, identified agro-industries, and defence as the two important areas of collaboration between India and Virginia.

The trade relationship between India and Virginia has seen an upswing for the past several years. In 2016, India ranked 18th among US export destinations and 14th among Virginia export destinations.

Some of the top opportunities for US exporters in India include defence, environment and water, franchising, healthcare and medical equipment, mining and mineral processing equipment, supply chain/logistics, power and renewable energy and travel and tourism.

In 2015, the then Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe had taken a trade mission to India.

Virginia has a thriving Indian-American population. Last year, Air India started direct flights between New Delhi and Dulles International Airport in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.