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US-India strategic forum seeks ‘conducive’ investment climate

The Tribune 2019-12-03 07:46:00
Says becoming $5 trillion economy uphill task otherwise

Ahead of the Indo-US 2+2 meeting in Washington, a prominent industry association focussed on improving bilateral ties has sought a conducive climate here that could attract some of the $17 trillion of funds in America awaiting appropriate investment destination.

The president and CEO of US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), Mukesh Aghi, said India needs larger investments.

Dr Aghi, an Indo-American, is here to interact with policy makers and key opinion makers in order to nudge both sides to aim for greater proximity in defence, geopolitics and trade. The USISPF broke away from the US Chamber of Commerce and its offshoot the US-India Business Council about two-and-a-half years ago to give comprehensive focus to the US-India relationship that encompasses strategic aspects as well including the situation in Kashmir.

Though US companies won $18 billion of arms contracts from India, the USISPF believes it is not just about a buyer-seller relationship. “We want to create an eco-system for making military hardware in India and eventually for export,” he reasoned.

On a strategic level, the USISPF would like the momentum of high-level confabulations such as the forthcoming 2+2 to lead to much greater convergence of interests in regions such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, besides the US endorsing and pushing India’s candidature for the UN Security Council’s permanent membership.

In defence, while companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing are committing to do some manufacturing in India, Dr Aghi feels the future in defence tie-ups lies in start-ups, which is where most of the innovation in the US is coming from. “India has a vibrant start-up scene. We have to look at dual use technologies to encourage that into production.”

Though US companies are looking at replacing much of the 54 per cent Russian hardware in the armed forces, he is reconciled to the fact that the whole process will take time. “We are encouraging India to diversify its defence imports, but we would prefer more of advanced technology from the US,” he suggests.

On trade disputes, the USISPF wants both sides to take a step back. It is lobbying with Washington to restore GSP preference to Indian exporters and asking both sides to roll back the retaliatory tariffs they have imposed on each other’s products. “We are also looking at predictability, a dispute resolution mechanism and a playing field so that US companies like Mastercard and Visa can compete with local companies.”

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