Ahead of the visit of Hillary Clinton to Chennai next week, the first ever by a Secretary of State, a top US official has said this South Indian city over the years has emerged as a hub of trade, investment and people to people engagement between India and the US.
"During her trip to India, Clinton will conduct high level government to government meetings in Delhi and she would also visit Chennai," Robert D Hormats the Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs said, during a panel discussion en US India relationship organized jointly by the East West Center and India US World Institute.
"This will mark the first visit by a serving US Secretary of State to Chennai which has emerged as a hub for trade, investment and people to people engagement in this thriving US Indian relationship," Hormats said.
Hormats said he is also eager to get back to Chennai, one of the cities he visited during his month-long trip to India as a graduate student in 1960s.
He hoped that Clinton, during her trip to Chennai, would be visiting the historic ruins of Mahabalipuram. "I am not sure whether she is going to get there or not.
"I hope she does. If she does not, I would be trying to wake up very early in the morning before she wakes up and go there, because it is one of the spectacular things not only in India but really in the world," he said.
Hormats said Clinton and her Indian counterpart S M Krishna launched the India-US Strategic Dialogue in 2009.
Its goal is to provide a framework and strategic direction for the huge range of bilateral government-to-government activity between the two countries, he said.
The US official said trade between US and India has doubled twice in the past 10 years and it continues to grow and drive the economic partnership.
"In Delhi and Chennai, we will consider further ways to expand these (trade) numbers," he said.
Defense deals are another aspect of trade between the two countries, he said, adding that India has embarked upon a military modernisation programme, which is expected to spend more than $35 billion over the next five years.
"Despite in recent disappointment, we are pleased that India continues to look to the US suppliers to facilitate its defense modernisation," he said, adding that US firms have already won defense bids worth $8 billion in past four years.
Hormats said US visas issuance to Indians are another good indicators of the thriving India-US relationship.
"For the past four years, Indians have received about half of all H-1B visas issued worldwide and more than 44 percent of all L1 inter-company transfer visas.
About 650,000 Indians travelled to the United States in 2010, an 18 per cent increase over the year 2009," he said, adding that this is in addition to the over 100,000 Indian students coming to study in US universities.
US would now like to see more Americans go to India for tourism, business and even study in Indian institutions.