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Big leap in India, US trade ties

In our obsessive efforts to track the nuances of the N-deal, have we missed out on some big-ticket changes in Indo-US relations? asks Amit Baruah.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2008 00:31 IST
Amit Baruah

In our obsessive efforts to track the nuances of the civil nuclear deal with the United States since July 2005, have we missed out on some big-ticket changes in Indo-US relations?

Like the fact that Indian foreign direct investment into the US in 2006-07 stood at $2 billion — more than twice the value of American FDI ($850 million) flowing into India in the same period. Flagging some of these changes, US Ambassador to India David Mulford told reporters on Monday that IBM had more employees in India than in USA.

And that two-way trade between India and the US, our largest trading partner, had hit $50 billion in 2006-07, with US exports growing by 72-75 per cent and Indian exports up by 40-42 per cent.

India and the US are about to double the intake of scholars for the $2.3 million Fullbright progamme – from the 120 students each way at the moment. India was likely to make a matching financial contribution to the programme, which has helped 14,200 scholars since 1950. The US mission in India issues 60 per cent of all H1-B, or special work visas, worldwide. On Monday alone, Mulford said the US embassy would issue visas to 3,500 Indians.

Mulford, who will complete four years in India on February 5, said that 7,25,000 visas had been issued last year to Indian nationals as opposed to 4,32,000 in 2005. According to him, the waiting period for visa interviews had been brought down to seven days in Delhi, eight in Chennai and four in Kolkata. At the Mumbai consulate, however, the wait was as much as 36 days, a problem that was being addressed, the ambassador said.

Time and again, Mulford stressed that most of the Indo-US relationship would be “civil” in nature, one where the government part would be but a slice.

In the next 20 years, India would be a key relationship for the US, with ties so diverse and multifaceted that it can’t be disentangled at all, the envoy added.