South Carolina’s economic bond with India was strengthened Tuesday.

Clemson University officials unveiled a new partnership with Indian businessman Ratan Tata during a ceremony at the school’s International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville County.

Tata has pledged to fund five fellowships through his nonprofit charity Tata Trusts that will enable students from India’s PSG College of Technology to pursue doctorate degrees in automotive engineering at the ICAR campus.

“This is an excellent opportunity to strengthen the relationship between South Carolina and India,” said Zoran Filipi, chairman of Clemson’s Department of Automotive Engineering. “It’s a tremendous validation for our program … This is just the first step in building a bridge between our two countries.”

Tata was not at Tuesday’s announcement, but representatives from PSG were in attendance.

Clemson officials said Tata, who serves as chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, a conglomerate with more than 600,000 employees worldwide, visited the Upstate last year.

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Tata toured ICAR and was awarded an honorary Ph.D. in automotive engineering from the university. Clemson officials said he was impressed with the program and wanted to contribute.

Each student will receive $26,500 a year toward tuition, books, housing and other expenses.

Filipi said the fellowships will continue on an annual basis for the foreseeable future.

“Investing in education is a legacy bequeathed by our founder and an important part of our philosophy,” Tata said in a statement. “This partnership with Clemson University promises to benefit both our countries and prepare professionals who are passionate about automotive engineering to offer their expertise to Indian industry.”

Program officials said the students will arrive in four weeks, just in time for the beginning of the fall semester.

Subramanyan Neelakrishnan, head of PSG’s Department of Automobile Engineering, said officials had to move quickly to establish the program because the students were already applying for jobs.

“We are excited about the long-term potential of this project,” Neelakrishnan said. “We hope to create a talent pipeline. The bigger picture is for [more fellowships], faculty exchange and other things.”

In 2014, Gov. Nikki Haley embarked on a 10-day trade mission to India in hopes of luring economic investment and jobs to the Palmetto State.

“India has a young population and is a fast-growing global and regional power,” said James Clements, president of Clemson University, in a statement.

“As a top public university, we want to engage in the most meaningful research and offer a highly relevant educational experience. Much of the 21st century growth will be in India and other fast-rising nations. This collaboration and others that stem from it will make students in both nations more competitive.”

For more information, visit www.clemson.edu.

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