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September 12, 2000
PM's Washington visit will boost economic ties
Amberish K Diwanji in New York
The prime minister's delegation is preparing for the Washington leg of his visit to the United States later this week. In New York, the visit is more a journey to the United Nations followed by meetings with members of the Indian community in this part of the country.
The only engagement with a US dignitary was when Republican presidential candidate, Texas Governor George W Bush made an unscheduled telephone call to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on September 8 and spoke with him for 15 minutes.
The first-ever summit-level meeting in one year between the US and India will commence once the prime minister arrives in Washington, starting with an address to the joint session of the Congress followed by meetings with senior leaders, and a meeting with US President Bill Clinton.
Nand Kishore Singh, secretary in the prime minister's office, said the aim of this summit was to further strengthen ties and boost economic activity between the two countries. "While the US remains the largest investor in India, the fact is that of the $ 24 billion worth of investment approved, actual flows to India amount to only $ 2.5 billion," he said.
The secretary pointed out that the US already was India's largest trading partner, and Indian exports to the US amounted to $ 9 billion while imports from the US was much less.
Singh declared that one objective was to help boost further investment in India. "Most of the problems that bedeviled us have nearly been sorted out," he said.
He added said that disputes relating to textiles, taxation and civil aviation are on the verge of being resolved and once they were through, he was confident that investment into India would take a giant leap forward.
"In the past few months, we have in India taken major steps towards deregulation in the areas of telecom, power and civil aviation, and this new changes will help push US investment into India," Singh, a former revenue secretary at the finance ministry, claimed confidently.
Besides his many political engagements, the prime minister is slated to address the National Association of Manufacturers along with many Indians and Indian community members hailing from Silicon Valley who have flown down for the event.
A meeting with The Indus Enterpreneurs -- the famed TIE -- is also being planned, but is not certain yet. Just before departing for Washington, the prime minister will address the Confederation of Indian Industry in New York.
Singh further said that disputes over aspects of the World Trade Organisation would also be discussed. "While we agree that issues of labour and environmental standards are important, our position is that we do not see any reason to link them to trade-related issues," he said.
The secretary added that both India and the US were committed to another round of the WTO after the last round's failure at Seattle.
On the question of providing dual citizenship to members of the Indian community, India's Ambassador to the US Naresh Chandra admitted that many such requests had come in, all of which he had forwarded to the home ministry in India.
"But let us remember that while granting dual citizenship to Indians living in US or Canada or Britain is not a problem, there are millions of Indians in areas such as Fiji, Malaysia, Africa and which can cause problems. Hence, it is a delicate matter that is being considered by the Indian government," the ambassador, a former Cabinet secretary, said.
He pointed out that the issue of Persons of Indian Origin cards, which cost $ 1,000, has been of great help to the Indian community.
Chandra pointed out that ever since Clinton visited India in March 2000, economic relations have been on the upswing. "The number of delegations meeting me has gone up, the number of people making inquiries about India at the embassy and other missions all over the US has shot up and a number of Indian ministers have visited the US in the past six months," he added.
The ambassador felt that not a single item or issue had been left uncovered in the gamut of Indo-US relations.
He further stated that though Vajpayee was not meeting with Bush for logistical reasons, the prime minister's visit was bipartisan. "He will meet with the speaker of the House, who is a Republican," the ambassador pointed out.
rediff.com has assigned Associate Editors Amberish K Diwanji and Savera R Someshwar to cover Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to the United States. Don't forget to log into rediff.com for news of this historic visit as it happens!
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