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Tech cooperation, 6 trade disputes resolved: Key takeaways for India from Modi's US visit

Jun 24, 2023 07:06 AM IST

Foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said that the area of technology cooperation across the entire ecosystem constituted a major takeaway from Modi's US visit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US has been an “exceptional, landmark, path-breaking visit”; the decisions are “truly transformative” across areas; and this level of collaboration reflects both “deep trust” between the two sides and the fact that India and the US are in it for the “long-term”, foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said.

U.S. President Joe Biden and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 23, 2023.(REUTERS)

Kwatra also said that the area of technology cooperation across the entire ecosystem — tech transfer, tech trade in products and services, tech capacity building, tech co-production and research — constituted a major takeaway from the visit, alluding to the cooperation within the framework of the initiative on critical and emerging technologies (iCET) and beyond.

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Speaking to reporters after the state dinner hosted by President Joe Biden for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, around midnight on Thursday, Kwatra laid out the Indian perspective on the visit. While there has been robust public messaging and background briefings from the American side, including in the run-up to the visit, the Indian side was cautious about speaking of outcomes till the final joint statement was released.

Besides highlighting the symbolism associated with the state welcome, the personal connection between Biden and Modi, Kwatra focused on the substantive outcomes the visit has been able to deliver. He also said that the two leaders discussed the nature of challenges in the Indo-Pacific and what they could to together to meet, in response to a question on whether and how China figured in the discussion.

The tech and defence takeaway

Technology, Kwatra said, constituted a key theme of the discussions, with “roughly 20 to 25” areas of tech cooperation identified in the statement.

This included semiconductors, quantum, science and tech, defence, and space, where he pointed out that India had signed the Artemis Accords which would open up new areas of partnership between Isro and Nasa for cooperation in outer space. “If you put them all together, you will find that very clearly technology, in particular advanced technology across various domains, whether it is the defence domain, whether it is in the area of space or other domains, it has been one of the most important outcomes, substantive outcomes from the visit and from the discussions between the leaders,” he said.

When HT asked Kwatra what had changed given that the history of bilateral ties was marked by tech denial regimes to the current moment marked by tech collaboration, the foreign secretary did not offer a direct answer but pointed to the regulatory architecture and issues around it and the role of the India-US Strategic Trade Dialogue (STD) mechanism, which he leads, in addressing it.

Read: ‘Talent-technology guarantees brighter future’: PM Modi at CEOs meet in US

“Tech cooperation, by its very nature, interfaces quite intensely with the regulatory system on both sides, both on the Indian side and also on the US side. On the US side, we all are aware, the regulatory matrix in which they are dealt with both the EAR (export administration regulations) and ITAR (international traffic in arms regulations), he said, pointing out that STD was examining the issues from a “solution perspective, less from the problem perspective”. This can become an enabler of the partnership.

In response to another question by HT on whether the domains of cooperation — some of which will lock Indian and American systems for years, some of which have a longer time frame for implementation — represented a clear sign both countries were taking a long term bet on each other, Kwatra said: “The richness of form and substance of the visit clearly tells you that it’s exceptional, landmark, path-breaking. The decisions are truly transformative across a wide range of areas. Naturally, it is possible when countries have deep trust in each other and are in it for long-term.”

Trade and other domains

The foreign secretary said that trade, too, was a priority area of discussion. “One of the key elements in this has been that out of the seven WTO disputes between India and the US there has been a resolution for six of the outstanding WTO disputes. There have also been cooperative understandings with regard to upskilling of employees arrangements between the US Small Business Administration and the Indian ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), announcements of substantial investments by companies such as Boeing, 100 million in this case on infrastructure and programs to train pilots in India.”

India’s decision to join the Mineral Security Partnership, Kwatra said, will open up opportunities for both countries to collaborate in “entire field of critical minerals, which is so important for strategic new industries coming up in the field of electric mobility, energy transition, in particular green transition”.

Giving a sense of how the PM had seen the relationship, Kwatra said Modi spoke of first, this being a “new chapter in ties”; second, of “new direction and energy”; third, a “strong and futuristic partnership”; fourth, “resilient supply chains” being a key part; five, the ties being based on “mutual trust and shared strategic priorities”.

Read: Modi raises toast to India-US ties at luncheon: ‘Long journey in defence, trade’

Speaking of the Biden-Modi relationship, Kwatra said that their “friendship”, their “connect” had been one of the “principal drivers” of such a “rapid and large set of achievements”. He added that the PM’s address to the US Congress also showed the “truly special” nature of the visit.

China

Asked if China came up in conversations, Kwatra said the two leaders focused on challenges that the strategic interests of both countries faced around the world, and in this regard, Indo-Pacific has been a key region of cooperation. That cooperation took place both through individual partnerships with countries in the region as well as an assessment of challenges and what can be done to meet those challenges. “[The two leaders] focused on the nature of the challenges that the two countries face in the Indo-Pacific, including strategic challenges, and what India and US need to do across the different parts of their system to ensure that we mitigate those challenges through our cooperation, but at the same time, also harness the opportunities that are available in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

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