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September 16, 2000
'Vajpayeeji keeps his word'
Amberish K Diwanji in Washington DC
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for the second time in three days, told a gathering of captains of industry and business that India is committed to reforms and invited investment in the country.
The prime minister was addressing a gathering of business heads at a seminar jointly organised by the United States-based National Association of Manufacturers and the Confederation of Indian Industry, New Delhi. The CII had organised a meeting in New York on September 13, where Vajpayee was the chief guest.
The prime minister had nothing new to say at the second similar summit meeting of Americans, Indians and Indian American community, but his message was lapped up anyway. The Indians were the same people who had traveled from India to New York to hear the prime minister at the CII summit at the Waldorf Astoria hotel and were now at the Willard hotel in Washington.
Kiran Pasricha, chief of the CII North America chapter, said that two different functions were held because each function catered to different crowds. "In New York, the people gathered were the people from the software industry and from the financial services industry. Here the people gathered are primarily from the manufacturing industry," she said.
She agreed that the Indians in the crowd both at New York and Washington DC were the same, but obviously it did not matter since the Americans and Indian Americans were different.
"They have come to hear the prime minister speak since it is a great honour to hear him," she added.
Pradumma Kaul, who is part of the top management at Hughes Network Systems and an Indian American, was present at the meeting. Kaul said he had come to hear the prime minister speak and felt better after doing it.
Did he expect any change? "Yes, I do. Things have already changed and for the better," he said emphatically.
But he added that problems did remain, and they were the same ones. "The prime minister made some announcements, but the need is really implementation, and transparency in processing projects," he said.
However, he quickly added that things have improved and for the better. “What I like about Vajpayeeji is that he keeps his word. He promised to speed up implementation and he has done so. Things are better now," he declared.
Asked how he would rate the situation, he said on a scale of one to 10, if before 1991 it was one, now it was around five to six. “It should be better… I know it will be better," Kaul stated, adding that India's democratic process slowed down projects.
The Americans in the gathering were bullish about India and reiterated that they were not just fair-weather friends out to make only money but in India for keeps and with major investment projects up their sleeve.
Timeken Company chairman and chief executive W R Timken pointed out how 58,000 Indians own 20 per cent Timken India Limited. "Against 5,000 years of India's history, Timken's involvement in India is very new. It is also very serious and very dedicated. It represents our determination to play a constructive role in the building of India's future," he told the prime minister and gathering.
Earlier, in the introductory speech, National Association of Manufacturers president Jerry J Jasinowski said today most major companies from the US have a presence in India, whether it was Mattel, DuPont chemicals, virtual private networks like those provided by Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications, or Proctor and Gamble.
"These companies are just not selling items in India, they are manufacturing them there, with all that implies," he pointed out.
Giving an example of American companies's intention to be part of the Indian economic scene, he said DuPont had once said its goal 'is to become one of the most admired companies in India.'
Jasinowski pointed out that India's new economy industries, its knowledge-based industries and vast talent of manpower were attracting American companies.
Stating that India's challenges and opportunities went far beyond the world of software, he said NAM members looked forward to participating in the Indian economy.
In his speech, the prime minister spoke about India's commitment to reforms, including the spate of measures undertaken in recent days, the huge demand for investment in power (for which deals worth $ 7 billion have been signed), and India's determination to grow at nine per cent per annum from the 6.5 per cent achieved in the last decade.
Vajpayee was accompanied by Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh.
Pasricha had the last word. "Till some time ago, we used to receive a number of complaints from American businessmen who were doing business in India. They were the usual complaints about delays and hassles and all that stuff. But over the past few months, the number of calls coming to the CII office in the US have gone down tremendously," she said happily.
So, did CII get no calls at all? "We do get a few, but nothing we can't handle. Earlier, there were too many calls, now there are too few worry about," she said triumphantly.
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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