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US will not lose long-term bet on India: Nirupama Rao

Last updated on: September 15, 2011 15:12 IST

US will not lose long-term bet on India: Nirupama Rao

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

In her first public remarks since taking over as India's new Ambassador to the US, former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told American captains of industry and business that "you will never lose a long-term bet on India".

At a reception, hosted by the US-India Business Council, Rao acknowledged that "like in any expanding relationship, there will always be transactional issues to address between the two sides".

The event attracted guest list of nearly 300 representatives and CEOs of some of America's corporate heavyweights - including Fortune 500 companies as well as small and medium enterprises - Indian American community leaders and policy wonks from DC's leading think tanks.

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Image: Nirupama Rao, India's new Ambassador to the US.
Photographs: Jay Mandal
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US will not lose long-term bet on India: Nirupama Rao

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Without being specific she said: "They [the issues] are there, and they will be resolved in my view.

"But we need to keep in focus the larger picture of our relationship, which is positive, which is progressive, and which is mutually beneficial," she said.

Rao said: "India is a developing economy and emerging world power and in years to come, India will offer huge commercial opportunities for growth of international business.

"But being a developing country, there will also be certain challenges, mainly of a short-term nature," she said, but added, "As business enterprises, I am sure you will leverage and harness the opportunities that India offers to you."

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Image: She says all the issues will be resolved.
Photographs: Jay Mandal
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US will not lose long-term bet on India: Nirupama Rao

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Rao said: "I am sure, you will decide what you will do with the business opportunities present in India. You will recognize that this is a stable and commercially sustainable story that India's growth offers, and that you will overlook short-term challenges that you face.

"I am not in the business of doing business, although they say that the business of diplomacy today is business," she said.

"But I know my country well enough to say that you will never lose a long-term bet on India."

Rao said: "We are witnessing perhaps the most optimized setting for the India-US relationship," and added, "We are willing to work with you, and I am personally willing to work with you to make sure this relationship as President Obama has said, is a defining partnership for the 21 century."

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Image: Rao says the US should overlook the short-term challenges.
Photographs: Jay Mandal
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US will not lose long-term bet on India: Nirupama Rao

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Earlier, the new envoy showered praise on the USIBC and said that it "and its membership, have been one of the key drivers of our bilateral relationship".

"We value and deeply appreciate your role. What you do creates value and provides substantive commercial underpinnings to our strategic partnership," she said.

Rao said: "As we look toward even larger and increasing horizons of business opportunities in our trade ties, we would be well served to keep in mind the road that we've traveled in our overall relationship."

"As Foreign Secretary of India," she said, "I was a direct witness to the considerable change in the political landscape of our ties. But my appreciation of this change goes back to the mid-1990s when I was assigned as minister, press affairs at the Indian embassy."

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Image: Rao says she values the US-India Business Council role.
Photographs: Jay Mandal
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US will not lose long-term bet on India: Nirupama Rao

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Rao said: "Compared to that time-frame over the years, the security and strategic context of ties, globally, regionally and bilaterally, and also the trade and commercial elements of our relationship - indeed even the USIBC if I may say - have undergone a transformational change.

"Just to place in the context the nature of this change in specific terms, I remarked at my meeting with the USIBC board of directors a little while ago, that in 1991, our total annual bilateral trade in goods was only $5.3 billion. And, last year - and this is just trade in goods - it touched $48.75 billion."

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Image: She says India-US trade reached $48.75 billion in 2010.
Photographs: Jay Mandal
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US will not lose long-term bet on India: Nirupama Rao

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Rao said: "This year, we are well on our way to cross $50 billion in just trade and goods," and she added, "I am not adding trade in services - then the volume goes up further."

She said that US-India trade and commerce continues to grow at an average rate of 20 per cent per year, "and what's more, is that over the last decade, US exports to India have grown by over 200 per cent. Further, our two-way trade is broadly diversified and balanced.

"Our service trade, which sits at around $38 billion, also remains buoyant," she added.

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Image: Rao says the trade will cross $50 billion.
Photographs: Jay Mandal
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US will not lose long-term bet on India: Nirupama Rao

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Rao said: "I am no soothsayer, I do not profess to predict the future, but let me say this - it is true that the phenomenal transformation in the nature and the growth of the Indian economy, has been a key to the growth of India-US commercial ties.

"Even though our first quarter growth in the current financial year has been around 7.7 per cent, experts believe that the Indian economy has recovered its momentum of 8 to 9 per cent GDP growth."

She said India's economy currently at $1.7 trillion would soon become a $2 trillion economy in the next few years.

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Image: She says India will soon become a $2 trillion economy.
Photographs: Jay Mandal
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US will not lose long-term bet on India: Nirupama Rao

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Rao was formally introduced by William Cohen, former Defense Secretary in the Clinton Administration, and a three-term US Senator, currently chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group and member of the USIBC board of directors, who said: "We are absolutely delighted that your government has once again asked you to return to Washington."

Cohen said: "She is one of the most dedicated public servants that India has, and she has occupied some of the most strategic posts in the world - concurrently (as ambassador) to Peru and Bolivia in the mid-1990s, then to Russia (where she was Deputy Chief of Mission), Sri Lanka (High Commissioner), and most recently (ambassador) to China. And then from 2009 to 2011, she was Foreign Secretary."

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Image: Rao is a seasoned diplomat.
Photographs: Jay Mandal
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USIBC president, Ron Somers in his welcoming remarks, said: "The future (for US-India relations) is indeed very bright and to cap all of this off, India has given us the greatest gift of presenting the United States with the most dynamic of ambassadors."

"And we are here today to cap that by welcoming with all of our hearts, our open arms, the new ambassador of India, Nirupama Rao."

Somers also went on to say: "Fifty-four per cent of the country of India of 1.2 billion people, 54 per cent are under the age of 25 that's 600 million youngsters - who have youthful hope and that youthful hope - 74 per cent of India - appreciates and likes the United States of America."

"I am not sure we like ourselves that much." he said.


Image: She was warmly welcomed by the US officials.
Photographs: Jay Mandal
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