India-US meet to focus on commerce, trade

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Sep 17, 2015 01:05 IST

A greater focus on trade and commerce is expected at the first edition of the expanded India-US strategic dialogue, with commerce added on, that takes place here next week.

The foreign ministers of the two countries who lead their respective delegations will be joined by their colleagues from the commerce department for the first time.

This round takes place on September 22, preceded by a high-powered turnout at a USIBC annual gala the day before headlined by vice-president Joe Biden.

And it will be followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi arriving in New York the day after the dialogue, September 23, for a visit that will take him to Silicon Valley this time.

The elevated dialogue follows the decision taken during President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January, Indian ambassador to the US, Arun Singh, told reporters on Tuesday.

The annual dialogue, hosted alternately by the two countries, covered a whole host of issues ranging from strategic, military, education to science technology and health.

But it was elevated earlier this year, when President Barack Obama visited India to attend the Republic Day celebration, to include commerce and economic ties.

Both sides maintain that cooperation in all other spheres has progressed at an even pace — US is now India’s largest supplier of military hardware replacing Russia, for instance.

“There is room for improvement in the commercial and economic aspects of the relationship,” said a source, agreeing to speak on the issue only on condition of anonymity.

“While the Americans need to understand Indian systems and compulsions,” the source said, “India needs to step up its act on financial sector reforms, ease of doing business etc.”

Most of recent dips in India-US ties have been due to differences over trade and economic issues — intellectual property rights, off-set clause and taxation.

There is also a need to balance expectations on either side.

A visiting Indian industrialist said recently India expects the US to act like Japan, where the government can direct private sector investment decisions. “It’s doesn’t work that way in the US.”

And the US, he added, expects India to behave like authoritarian China, where decision-making is faster. “India, on the other hand, is much like the US — just as chaotic.”

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