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'US looks at India for stability'

April 20, 2010 12:09 IST

Optimism for a bright future and pride in the resurgence of India marked the 6th Annual India Business Conference of the Columbia Business School's South Asian Business Association.

"India's economic news is good news. It is good for the United States too,' Frank Wisner, former ambassador to India, told the opening session.

"The US looks at India for stability. We have to understand each other. Without accommodating the interests of each other, India and the US cannot move further."

India has gone through a remarkable year economically, Wisner said. While other nations were reeling under the financial crisis, India was largely immune to it. India's advantage lies in the large market inside the country, he noted.

Wisner also pointed out the significant investments made by Indians worldwide. India is the second fastest growing country after the United Arab Emirates in foreign direct investment in the US.

He discussed India's responsibilities as a member of the G-20 and the problems it faces from its neighbors. It is a nation committed to free market and democracy; it is committed to provide for the poorest.

Yet India is in a dangerous zone, facing problems arising from neighboring countries, he noted. In the next 18 months, the US may start pulling out from Afghanistan, opening the doors for more responsibility for countries like India in the region, Wisner added.

He said the thinking that President George W Bush favoured India while the Obama administration leans toward China was incorrect.

It is in America's interest to keep a presence in Asia. We need not compare the relations with China and India. India's tremendous growth in recent years as well as the changes at the Bombay Stock Exchange were the focus of Madhu Kannan's keynote.

He is the youngest chief executive officer of the BSE, Asia's oldest stock exchange. He said he moved to India after 15 years in the US and found a changed nation. He pointed out the advantages the country had - domestic consumption driven growth unlike Western countries, 750 million working age population, a growing cash business, and 95 percent of the investments being drawn from domestic savings.

India's Ambassador Meera Shankar saw eco-colonialism in imposing Western views on climate talks. When a Nano car is produced in India, concern arises in the West, while gas guzzlers produced in the US or Germany go without scrutiny, she said. 'It is unfair to ask the developing world to cap their aspirations.'

She added that India was not using democracy as a crutch to explain the slow progress it achieves compared to other countries. The Indian version of democracy, she said, accommodated diversity and brought up the marginalized to the fore. The per capita income is small, but more and more are moving up to the middle class. "We are comparing with ourselves only. China and India can grow simultaneously," she said.

Shankar also discussed India's unique innovation area, which creates new products from ordinary things, and the changing education sector. "It is an exciting period for India and enormous opportunities lie ahead," she said.

George Joseph in New York