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Modi’s Silicon Valley visit in WikiLeaks mails

The US had mulled having former President Bill Clinton co-host a clean energy roundtable during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's high-voltage visit to Silicon Valley in 2015

world Updated: Oct 11, 2016 22:12 IST
HT Correspondent
Narendra Modi

This photo file photo shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Digital India dinner held at Fairmont Hotel in San Jose on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. The event was attended by Silicon Valley CEOs including Sundar Pichai of Google, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, John Chambers of Cisco and Shantanu Narayan of Adobe. (AP)

The US had mulled having former President Bill Clinton co-host a clean energy roundtable during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's high-voltage visit to Silicon Valley in 2015, when he had met and wooed industry leaders such as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla's Elon Musk and Google's Sundar Pichai.

Commerce secretary Penny Pritzker was to represent the US government at the event but she had pulled out. And "Indians are looking for some other USG principal to participate with industry, academia and government", Nisha Biswal, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, wrote in an email to John Podesta, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama on climate change who had left earlier that year to head Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

The email, whose authenticity was not confirmed by the state department as a matter of policy, was among Podesta's hacked communications released by WikiLeaks on Monday.

The email revealed no major policy decision or development but threw light on US preparations for Modi's visit to Silicon Valley, which was to focus on digital economy and clean energy.

According to the mail, the US had expected India to make some sort of announcement during Modi's tour of the Tesla facility. But nothing came eventually, though the Indians remain interested in the company's solar energy batteries.

But Biswal, at the time, tried to find "a Cabinet rank principal" to convene the clean energy roundtable event Modi was scheduled to attend at Stanford University, as sought by India.

"We will of course see if Secretary Kerry or Secretary Moniz can go to Califorinia that weekend but things are complicated by the Xi (Chinese president Xi Jinping) visit and the UNGA schedule. Are there other options you would suggest we pursue? Another option would be to see if Governor Brown or perhaps President Clinton would be interested in co-hosting/convening. Also, would you want to participate in the roundtable? Let me know if you have thoughts on this or want to discuss."

Energy secretary Ernest Moniz co-hosted the event, eventually.

The leaked mails also contained one from 2008 from Sonal Shah, an Indian-American member of Obama's transition team, about newspaper reports on her links to Hindu fundamentalists in India. She wanted to know from transition team leaders, including Podesta, who should deal with them.

She was asked to draft a statement, which she did, saying, among other things, "I've never been affiliated - in any way, shape or form - with any Indian political party or similar group."