The US corporate sector as well as their Indian counterparts are excited at the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States, expecting him to unlock opportunities during his bilateral engagements with the President Barack Obama.
Obama had invited Modi to visit the US after he called him to congratulate him on the NDA's win in the recent Lok Sabha elections. Modi is likely to be in New York to attend the UN General Assembly in September. The bilateral meeting between the two leaders is being worked out between September 25 and 30, government sources said.
Even though in 2010 Obama had described relationship with India, a defining partnership of the 21st century, it soon nose-dived, owing to many factors including the slow down of economies and political disappointments, like the failure of American companies to win multi-billion dollar contract for Indian fighter aircraft, as well as the inability to capitalise on the Indo-US nuclear deal. The most recent of these was the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade for violation of US labour laws. On a range of other global issues, both sides have also remained apart.
Though, government is yet to confirm the visit, defence experts hope the visit may put relations back on track. “It is a welcome move and a step in national interest," said defence analyst Bharat Verma. In February, Nancy Powell, the then US ambassador to India, had made first contact with Modi, then the Chief Minister, in Gandhinagar.
Modi’s visit also gains significance as there is widespread hope among US companies that the new Indian government will announce policy measures to boost foreign investment in various sectors. Modi has identified infrastructure as the key area for mega-investments in a bid to push growth and jobs to put Indian economy back on track after successive quarters of sub 5% growth.
The upbeat mood in Washington could be gauged from a top American senator asking US firms to seek investments in infrastructure for the next five years in India. Senator Mark Warner, who is co-chair of the Senate India Caucus was quoted by agencies tell an audience in Washington that Modi visit will provide a boost to Indo-US trade relationship. He reminded that in Gujarat, Modi had made infrastructure improvements a priority, building thousands of kilometres of highways and improved the port facility. He noted that some American firms that have previously invested in India have experienced difficulties with payment certainty and are shy to take the risks of being primary developers.
"A public-private group could be charged with finding a way to ensure payment security for American investment, pointing toward specific projects where American firms can and should bid, and focusing US Government assistance to help identify American firms to play a role in the infrastructure build out," Warner said.
Before leaving for Central Asia, China and India, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal, had said the US is open to the idea of holding this year's Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi, but any decision would be held only in consultation with the new government. The Strategic Dialogue, which was launched by the previous Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is held every year alternatively in India and the US.
Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal is however, cautious saying the US will have to clear stand on their Trade Representative's threat to impose sanctions on India under US laws for alleged IPR violations, instead of getting the matter adjudicated through the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism. “Select US corporations in the pharmaceutical, telecom and solar energy are today leading the charge against India in the US Congress, even as the US corporate sector has been in the past, a potent ally of India in promoting bilateral economic ties,” he said.