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Rediff.com  » Business » US and India should solve biz concerns more directly: Experts

US and India should solve biz concerns more directly: Experts

March 14, 2014 15:34 IST

US business and industry sources, representing some of the biggest companies that have been doing business in India for decades and have done very well for themselves, have told rediff.com in interviews that they can understand India’s paranoia that it is being specifically targeted for punitive action by the Obama administration, egged on by the ‘pile-on’ by various trade lobbies, particularly the powerful pharma interests.

India-US should sort out issues directly, say industry watchersThese sources, who wished not to be identified, argued that “genuine challenges US companies face in India should not be construed as whining or bullying or come across as threat.”

They said, “The US and India are vibrant business partners, and if there are concerns, then let these be aired directly, candidly, but not in the form of hearings, investigations, downgrades, and the like.”

One source pointed out, “Consider the sequence of events in just these past six months--related or completely accidental--but imagine the impression created. First, there was passage of an immigration bill in the United States Senate, which included a provision that would irreparably disrupt the business models of India’s jewel in the crown global IT Industry as well as the operation of many, many U.S. companies.”

 “Second, we’re still in recovery mode from arguably an incident that could and should have been avoided--the Khobragade affair,” the source said, “Third, we have seen the downgrade of India’s civil aviation industry by the FAA, which should not be construed as adding insult to injury, as we all desire safety in air travel, but which, in combination with the others, appears to be ‘piling on.’”

The source continued, “ Fourth, the FDA quality review recently concluded in India painted India all of one colour, unfairly implying that India is not capable of producing the world’s finest low cost/high quality drugs, which India is doing, and we in America should be grateful for.”

“Fifth, the USITC Investigation was launched a half year ago and its results will not be available for another half year. In the process, the USITC has unilaterally requested 19 secretarial meetings of India, which, although fact-finding driven, requires a lot of time.”

The source said, “Just imagine if an Indian commission of similar stature were to unilaterally request such high-level meetings from the USG!”

“Sixth, we now have companies and trade associations petitioning the USTR to list India as a ‘Priority Foreign Country’ under Section 301 of the US Trade Act, which would trigger sanctions.”

According to the source, “Not a very welcoming greeting to an incoming Indian government.”

The well plugged in source also recalled “the dismay by Prime Minister’s Office upon arriving in the United States in September 2013 to full page advertisements intending to shame India on its record regarding intellectual property – and this directed to America’s truest friend in India, Dr Manomohan Singh.’  

Another source noted how compounding all this was when “more than 70 members of Congress added their signatures to a letter to Secretary Kerry before he travelled to India last year, damning India.”  

“Moreover, a dozen Governors of various states wrote President Obama before Vice President Biden travelled to India last year, again damning India.”  

This source argued, “These acts represent just a sampling of the efforts underway from/by the US administration engineered by a few groups, which has now gained momentum and appears to be a ‘pile-on’.”  

The sources were of the consensus that “lumping all these acts and tactics together, the Indian polity may rightly feel a cold wind chilling US-India ties.  That’s not good for business. And it is not good for US-India relations – something we have all worked so hard to advance.”  

They warned, “Even if a new Prime Minister wanted to deepen US-India ties, he might be prevented from doing so because of the politics of pride that we worry could be the unintended consequence of such thoughtless tactics.”  

The sources called “for a return to the comity of open dialogue and constructive engagement. We must dispense with throwing brickbats.  India is now engaged in the largest democratic undertaking in human history, and starting April 7, more than 815 million will be going to polling stations all across India.”  

“At the end of this process - to be conducted over nine phases through May 14 - a democratic India will have chosen through free and fair elections a new government. Americans should celebrate and respect this process.”  

They asserted that “the US business community wants very much to work with India’s new government.  Therefore, let’s be respectful of one another at this sensitive time. Let’s not vitiate the atmosphere that would dissuade an incoming Government of India from wanting to work with America.”   

The sources said, “The present hearings underway, the investigations, the letters from Capitol Hill, the full-page advertisements, and all the rest should not cause a new Government of India to look for partnerships elsewhere.”  

Meanwhile, diplomatic observers said “the confluence of three powerful lobbies—pharma, IT and solar—were able to push the entire…the dominant view in the administration, the dominant view in the Congress, the dominant view among the think tanks, into a very, very strong anti-India sort of connection.”  

According to these diplomatic sources, “When it actually hit us, it came at a time when Vodafone had just got over and Vodafone had dealt a death-blow to the sentiment on India, which had been deteriorating because the growth rates had been coming down and the prospects were not looking good.”

Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC