From being confronted with yards of forbidding red tape to being feted over champagne and canapé, foreign investors' experience of Indian bureaucracy has undergone a dramatic change.

On Monday, a luxury hotel in central London was the setting for an elaborate ‘Come to India' party organised by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) to woo non-resident Indian businesses. The room reverberated with breathless talk of the ‘new global India' and the opportunities it offered to anyone who had the cash to spare and had a mind to invest in India.

“India is the future and it has arrived,” declared Lord Karan Bilimoria, president of the UK-India Business Council, whose own beer company has invested in Bihar, which, he said, contrary to the popular perception, was an “amazing” State to do business with.

Indian businessmen and women were urged to “walk the talk” and take the first flight out to India. A. Didar Singh, MOIA's articulate secretary, promised to pull out all stops to help them. The era of ``permit raj'' was long gone, he said, and India was now the third most friendly country for foreign investors.

“Catch the moment and come to India,” he said.

The setting up of an Overseas Indian Felicitation Centre, a ‘one-stop shop' for foreign investors, was cited as a proof of New Delhi's commitment to smooth the path for those who wanted to invest in India. Its chief executive, Shefali Chaturvedi, was at hand to field queries from potential investors.

The three-hour ‘investment and interactive meet' was a hard-sell, with speaker after speaker listing the advantages of investing in India and promising mouth-watering returns. Mr. Singh had brought with him a business delegation of the Confederation of Indian Industry to “engage the diaspora” in India's growth story.