When Air Force One with Barack Obama on board lands in Mumbai in less than a fortnight from now, he would be the first American President to start his India sojourn from the country's financial capital, giving a powerful signal that the focus of his visit is business.
It would also be recognition by the US – the only superpower of the world – of the emergence of India as an economic power, which unlike China has reached this stage through a democratic pluralistic society. Beginning with Dwight D Eisenhower, Obama would be the sixth US President to visit India – but the first one to start the tour from Mumbai.
This is reflective of the significance being attached to the economic ties between the two countries, by the Obama Administration, said an Indian diplomat who is closely involved with the preparation of the tour of the US President.
The official requested anonymity as the trip has not been announced yet, but did confirm that Obama would start his India journey from Mumbai. Last week, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that economic dimension of the relationship would be the focus of the trip and Obama would concentrate his trip on Mumbai and New Delhi.
Choosing Mumbai as the point of entry, Obama would also indicate the growing economic ties between the two countries.
Noting that US is India's key trading partner, the official said between 2004 and 2008, Indo-US trade in goods more than doubled to USD 44 billion. While trade dipped in 2009 because of the global economic crisis, the first six months of this year have seen it rebound with a growth of over 30 per cent.
The total trade for in January-July 2010 stands at USD 27.96 billion. Two-way trade in services has also shown a steady growth, increasing from USD 18.4 billion in 2007 to USD 22.6 billion in 2008. This is fairly evenly balanced with US services exports being USD 10.5 billion (2008) and Indian services exports-USD 12.1 billion (2008), the official said.
The official said America is one of the major source of investment in India though there is scope to do much more. Cumulative FDI inflows from the US from April 2000 to July 2010 amounted to USD 8.86 billion constituting nearly eight per cent of the total FDI into India.
Indian direct investment into the United States has also been growing rapidly. Between April 2008 and September 2010, FDI flow from India to the US has been USD 2.1 billion.