Washington: The State Visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the invitation of President Joe Biden is a "big deal" and a powerful signal that the future of the two countries is together, US-India Business Council (USIBC) president Atul Keshap has said.
Prime Minister Modi is visiting the US from June 21-24 at the invitation of US President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. This will be his first State Visit to Washington.
“The old saying goes, trade follows the flag. The two flags indicate the relevance of one to the other. A State Visit is a big deal. It is only the third in the entire history of diplomatic relations between the United States and India. It is the highest level of protocol area and diplomatic gesture that the United States can offer,” Keshap told PTI in an interview.
“This is only the third State Visit of the Biden administration. It is an honour reserved for our closest friends. India is now one of our closest friends. The fact that the prime minister and the president have agreed to this, their coming together is a powerful signal from the top of each government that our future is together,”Ambassador Keshap, who previously served as the Chargé d’Affaires at the US embassy in New Delhi said.
“It's in strategic relations, it’s in economic relations, it's in technological relations. I would say one more word, not merely relations, but convergence." "The more the United States and India, the two greatest democracies on earth come together in these fields, the happier, safer, more stable, and more prosperous the entire world is going to be," he said.
Responding to a question on expectations from the visit, Keshap said he is hoping that it will send a powerful signal to the business communities of both countries that they are the preferred partners of each other and that there can be investment and trade in both directions with the full blessing and approval of the two governments.
"I have articulated repeatedly that we must be impatient in attaining our USD 500 billion goals for annual trade between the United States and India. While we're only at USD 190 billion, we have to put on our track shoes, and our sneakers, and run faster. Both governments giving this encouragement is important." "Look at energy, that's where the big money deals are, and it weaves countries together in a strategic and economic way. I'd like to see some energy deals between the US and India. I'd like to see deals on things like semiconductors and chips where we deleverage the risk in the supply chain,” Keshap said reflecting the wish list of the US corporate sector ahead of the visit.
“I want to see every possible effort in terms of e-commerce, and supply chain manufacturing to ensure resilience and to ensure the security of our supply chains so that free people are never exposed to any vulnerability in the supply chain. I want to see our companies finalise deals in the digital economy, in FinTech, in energy, in aerospace and defence,” he said.
Keshap announced that on the eve of prime minister Modi's visit, USIBC will host a “wedding mela” at the United States Chamber of Commerce, bringing American and Indian startup enterprises in the defence space together to try to see if they can make partnerships, to build the defence articles that both of the countries need for a strong defence.
A strong defence, results in deterrence and deterrence very simply makes any other person think twice about playing any games.
"For the US and India to be strong, to have strong deterrents, we need our companies, our private sectors working together. So IndUSX on the June 20 at the US Chamber is our contribution to doing that. We were asked to do so by both the Pentagon and the Indian Ministry of Defence." "We are very honoured to do that. If we see, deals flow from this in all of those areas, and we see the trade volume start to climb past USD 200 billion heading for USD 500 billion, then I feel like I'm doing my dharma,” he said.
Observing that the defence sector is a very regulated industry, he said it's the private sector that can actually amplify and boost capability.
“They have the technology in our system. It doesn't repose in the US government, it reposes in the companies, but what is being sent is a signal to say, get together, collaborate, produce,” he said.
Keshap said if the United States and India, the world's greatest democracies are strong and capable at any moment, their enemies who may seek to challenge them will think twice, that's the whole purpose of deterrence.
“Deterrence is about avoiding the next war. So having a very strong defence industry is very important. What have we learned from the pandemic? What have we learned from the Russia, Ukraine war? We have learned that countries have to be prepared, they have to be strong, they have to be capable. Building up India's defence production in the private, private sector. Very important for the peace and safety of India and the entire world,” Keshap said.
From the American company perspective, he said "they just want to be treated equally and fairly to be able to do their business, make their investment decisions, and they want to have predictability. …I think what American firms want to hear is about predictability and ease of doing business and a level playing field. I would say, and I don't think I can speak as authoritatively for the Indian companies, but they are also my members." "They feel that in the United States, they have a pretty good field in which to run. there is a level playing field. There is speedy arbitration of any disputes in the courts. They do get a fair shake from all of the state governors that they go to when they look to see where they might invest," he said.
“They get a lot of incentives. They are treated with respect and treated fairly. While they're Indian firms, they're not American, they are viewed as generators of jobs and investment and prosperity. I know about Indian companies that are training young kids in high school, how to do computer coding so that they can get a really high-paying job, whether they go to college or not,” he said.