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'India should be given credit for helping America'

January 30, 2014 12:05 IST

'India should be given credit for helping America'

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

India should be given credit for helping America recover from the economic crisis. We also expect issues of high-skilled visas and market access to be given a fair hearing, says S Jaishankar, India’s new Ambassador to the US.

India’s new Ambassador to the US, S Jaishankar, in his first interaction with America Inc, told members of the US-India Business Council (USIBC) that India has been catalytic in job creation in the United States and hoped it is given due credit for helping in America’s economic recovery.

At a reception attended by over 200 representatives of USIBC member companies, administration officials, think tanks and India well wishers, Jaishankar said, “We as Indians have stakes in a strong US economic recovery and we contribute to job creation here with our economic imports, through direct investments and by enhancing the competitiveness of American companies.”

Jaishankar said that as both New Delhi and Washington, “Work our way - each one of us out of a difficult economic situation - it is important that we appreciate each other’s interests.”

He assured US business and industry that, “My country values its reputation as being open to international business,” and asserted that “the record shows that we are prepared to respond to legitimate concerns.”

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Image: One World Trade Center
Photographs: Courtesy, David Sundberg, Silverstein Properties

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In this regard, the new envoy said, “Clarification of tax regulations factoring in Indian imports and different policies and liberalising FDI caps in various sectors are recent examples that speak for themselves.”

“But equally, we expect our issues - issues of high-skilled visas, market access, totalisation, to be given a fair hearing.”

Jaishankar argued, “In the present climate, what we need above all, is sensible and constructive interactions as much between the governments as between our businesses,” and taking a hefty swipe at some of the stinging criticism leveled against India by some sectors of America Inc, and even some members of the US Congress, added, “What we certainly do not need is public acrimony or misrepresentation of policies.”

 “As Ambassador, I am here to advance our interests but to do so in a fair manner that takes yours into account in equal measure,” he said.
“I hope this spirit would continue to characterise my future interactions not just with USIBC but with American business as a whole.”

Jaishankar reiterated, “I can assure you where business is concerned, my doors and e-mail in-boxes are always open.”

At the outset he said, “As I take up my responsibility as Ambassador, it’s natural that USIBC should be an early port of call for me.”

“Business has been one of the staunchest supporters of our relationship and as our ties grow, it is vital that their commitment to it remains strong,” he said.

Jaishankar said, “The story of our economic relationship is fairly well known - trade has quadrupled since the nuclear deal to cross the $100 billion mark.”

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Image: (L to R) Ron Somers, President, USIBC; Ajay Banga, USIBC Chairman and President & CEO, MasterCard; Dr. S Jaishankar, Ambassador of India to the United States.
Photographs: Courtesy, USIBC
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He also pointed out that, “Defense trade has been a new and important element in this and investments have grown as well - US investments today in India are in the range of $50 billion and Indian companies in the US are about half that level.”

“And that’s quite an impressive figure considering where they were just a few years ago,” the Ambassador said.

USIBC chairman and president and MasterCard president and CEO Ajay Banga, in his remarks, obviously referring to the controversy of L’Affaire Khobragade - where Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was arrested and strip and cavity search for alleged visa fraud and the major diplomatic spat that greeted Jaishankar on his arrival last month - said, “As you can imagine, his move here at a point of time when his …let’s say his baptism by fire is the way I would describe his arrival here.”

But Banga said Jaishankar was, “a seasoned Washington hand - this is not his first time here. He’s also a seasoned hand with India and the United States and so, I see in him somebody who can be very constructive and very helpful as we try and build out our relationship.”

He declared, “I believe that these two countries were born to be together,” and added, “I believe like all other relationships, we have been through a rocky period which will come again for sure.”

But Banga told the audience, “The Ambassador has a refreshingly positive and open attitude toward listening to the issues but also stating his mind, which I appreciate enormously.”

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Photographs: Reuters

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“I believe there are two sides in this play and both sides need to give a little and take a little for things to happen the right way,” he said. “But I do believe what India needs is jobs for its young people, it needs investment in tourism, in manufacturing and infrastructure.”

In this regard, Banga said, “American companies with the capital, the technology and intellectual property are able to make a difference to India being a better country for its own people, which by the way, makes it a better and better country for those of us who believe in this country.”

Thus, he exhorted that, “If we can keep that in our system and navigate the bends in our roads like sensible drivers of cars, then we can get to the other end and enjoy ourselves along the way.”

Rajesh Subramaniam, executive vice president of FedEx Services, which co-hosted the reception, in introducing Jaishankar said that despite the “Distractions we’ve talked about, it’s been the business community that’s been the engine of our economies and that’s kept the relationship in balance.”

He said at the closed-door interaction some of America Inc’s heavyweights had with Jaishankar before the reception, “It’s fantastic to see Ambassador being plain-spoken, seen as a man of action and looking for solutions.”

Ron Somers, president of USIBC noted that Jaishankar, “Was central along with Ambassador Nick Burns on the US-India civil nuclear initiative. So, we have a real friend of the US-India partnership here in Washington, DC.”


Photographs: Reuters

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