Washington: As the sales of Apple iPhones went through a global slowdown except in India, the Cupertino-based tech giant's CEO Tim Cook has announced to soon open retail stores in the country - a move that brings to the fore the fact how important the Indian smartphone market has finally become for Apple. Apple's third-quarter net income plunged 27 per cent to $7.8 billion on a decline of iPhone sales. It sold 40.4 million iPhones in the quarter, compared with 47.5 million in the same period of 2015. But sales of the Apple devices in India rose 51 per cent in the last three quarters compared with a year earlier, Cook said on Tuesday. "India is now one of our fastest growing markets. In the first three quarters of this fiscal year, our iPhone sales in India were up 51 percent year on year. Weâ€™re looking forward to opening retail stores in India down the road and we see huge potential for that vibrant country," The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Cook. The announcement was made on the sidelines of Apple's Q3 2016 earnings call. Cook, who visited India in the sweltering heat of May announced the first development centre in Hyderabad to work on Apple Maps and an app design and development centre in Bengaluru that will support the Indian developers creating mobile apps for its iOS mobile platform. In his much awaited meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the 55-year-old Apple head stressed the possibilities of manufacturing and retailing Apple devices in the country. Bullish on India's upcoming 4G revolution, Cook told an Indian TV channel that 4G is critical for India's progress -- thus setting up the roadmap for a possible alliance with some big players to help Apple open more retail stores in the country. "I am looking at India holistically and we are here for the next thousand years," Apple CEO Tim Cook had asserted.