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Logic of India-US strategic relationship is incontrovertible: Narendra Modi in WSJ

LiveMint logoLiveMint 26-06-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: Hours ahead of his meeting with US president Donald Trump, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched India as an economic opportunity, citing the possibilities for American investments in India’s flagship programmes like the Smart Cities Mission as well as in aviation and defence.

In a commentary in the Wall Street Journal, Modi also underlined common strategic objectives that brought the two countries together—like the fight against terrorism and radical ideologies.

Modi, who arrived in the US on Sunday, will get down to talks with Trump and his team on Monday. 

Aware of the new Trump administration’s emphasis on the economy, Modi in his commentary first touched upon the immense economic opportunities that Asia’s third-largest economy presented to the US.

Since taking office on 20 January, the Trump administration has given priority to economic revival and growth, with an increased accent on hiring Americans for jobs at home and stress on investments being made within the US that will generate employment.

“In an uncertain global economic landscape, our two nations stand as mutually reinforcing engines of growth and innovation. Confidence in each other’s political values and a strong belief in each other’s prosperity has enabled our engagement to grow,” Modi wrote.

Highlighting the comparable Indian contribution to the US economy, Modi noted that Indian companies had invested $15 billion and had a presence in 35 of the 50 states which comprise the US. American companies on their part had invested more than $20 billion in India, he wrote.

Highlighting the advantages of the world’s fastest-growing economy to businesses in the world’s largest economy, Modi wrote, “The transformation of India presents abundant commercial and investment opportunities for American businesses.” 

“The rollout of the Goods and Services Tax on July 1 will, in a single stroke, convert India into a unified, continent-sized market of 1.3 billion people,” Modi said of the indirect tax reform that is being billed as India’s most ambitious since independence. 

“The planned 100 smart cities, the massive modernization of ports, airports, and road and rail networks, and the construction of affordable housing for all by 2022—the 75th anniversary of India’s independence—are not just promises of great urban renewal within India. These plans also showcase the enormous fruits of our relationships with enterprising U.S. partners—worth many billions of dollars over the next decade alone—together with concomitant new employment opportunities across both societies,” he further wrote in his commentary.

“India’s rapidly expanding aviation needs, and our increasing demand for gas, nuclear, clean coal and renewables, are two significant areas of increasing convergence. In coming years, Indian companies will import energy in excess of $40 billion from the US, and more than 200 American-made aircraft will join the private Indian aviation fleet,” Modi said.

Without directly referring to the thorny subject of immigration of skilled workers from India, Modi said: “The creative and entrepreneurial energy of our engineers, scientists and researchers, and their free movement between both countries, continue to help India and the US retain their innovation edge and maintain competitiveness in the knowledge economy.”

The issue of a revamp of the H-1B visas—that allow Indian IT professionals to live and work in the US—is an irritant to Indo-US ties. Modi is expected to raise the issue with Trump during their meeting on Monday. 

Indo-US collaboration, Modi said, has stood for global good with the world reaping benefits of the world’s oldest and the world’s largest democracies working together.

Underlining the common thread that bound the countries’ defence and strategic partnerships, Modi said: “Both India and the US have an overriding interest in securing our societies, and the world, from the forces of terrorism, radical ideologies and non-traditional security threats. India has four decades’ experience in fighting terrorism, and we share the U.S. administration’s determination to defeat this scourge.”

“The logic of our strategic relationship is incontrovertible,” he wrote. “The past two decades have been a productive journey of engagement for our mutual security and growth. I expect the next few decades to be an even more remarkable story of ambitious horizons, convergent action and shared growth,” he added.

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