Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he wants to convert the Supreme Court judgment on coal allocation into an "opportunity to move forward and clean up the past", as he wooed CEOs of large American companies to invest in India in key sectors including infrastructure.
Hosting a breakfast for 11 CEOs, including Indian-origin PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Citigroup chief Michael Corbat, Modi said India is open-minded and want the change, which is "not one-sided".
Listening to concerns raised by the business leaders, Modi assured them that his government will address their issues and try to make the environment in India more business-friendly.
Describing the meeting as "excellent and very good", all business leaders, including Nooyi and Corbat, said that the Prime Minister heard their concerns and listed out the priority areas of his government to take forward the India story to higher levels.
"(We) want to convert the Supreme Court judgment on coal allocation into an opportunity to move forward and clean up the past," Modi told the CEOs.
The Supreme Court last week quashed allocation of 214 out of 218 coal blocks allotted to various companies since 1993 terming it as "fatally flawed" and allowed the Government to take over operation of 42 such blocks which are functional.
Modi's observation comes in the backdrop of concerns that the judgment would have an adverse impact on corporate sentiments and overall business climate.
"India is open-minded. We want change. Change that is not 1 sided. Am discussing with citizens, industrialists & investors," the spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin tweeted, quoting Modi as said at the meeting.
The Prime Minister also told the business leaders that "infrastructure development is a big opportunity; it creates jobs and enhances quality of life of our citizens."
Those present at the breakfast meeting also included Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga, Cargill's President and CEO David W MacLennan, Caterpillar's Douglas Oberhelman, AES' Andres Gluski, Merck's Kenneth Frazier, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Carlyle Group David Rubenstein, Hospira's Michael Ball and Warburg Pincus' Charles Kaye.
Significantly, all companies already have considerable presence in India and their chiefs are believed to have expressed intention to further expand their engagements with the Indian government and enhance their business presence in the country.
After the meeting, Banga said that the Prime Minister listed out areas like tourism, skill development and infrastructure as his key focus areas.
The over one-hour-long breakfast meet was followed by one-on-one meetings with six CEOs of Boeing, KKR, BlackRock, IBM, General Electric and Goldman Sachs.
This is the first extensive business engagement in the US of the Prime Minister, who will also attend business meets in Washington tomorrow during his second leg of the 5-day visit.
Nooyi described the meeting as "excellent". "He answers questions brilliantly and is very focused on improving India. So, we are thrilled to be working with him."
Mastercard CEO Banga said the Prime Minister was a good listener and he believed that Modi can execute plans like the way he did in Gujarat.
"I have every belief he can do that. I believe then you can have a very good decade or ahead of growth in India and that would make every American investor happy to put their capital, technology and their people into India," he said.
Banga said one should worry less about the past and worry more about the future. "What matters is that his perspective is clear and if he is able to execute the way he has executed when he was CM of Gujarat, I have every belief he can do that."
Banga said Modi was focused on generating jobs for which there was need for improving manufacturing and tourism and infrastructure.
"His view is that he will get those with clear policies as well as about willingness to execute and he made the point many times over and I think from his perspective of his focus and his energy around Asia," he said.
Andres R Giluski, CEO of AES Corporation which in the power sector in Odisha, said the Prime Minister listened to everyone's concerns and he thought he was planning to address them.
Asked what bottlenecks he would want the government of India to remove, he said there are number of issues and reforms happening and "I think all of these are moving quicker. The Prime Minister likes to get things done and so do we."
When asked to give his first impression of the Prime Minister, he said "excellent a Prime Minister".
GE CEO Jeffery Immelt said they had an excellent meeting with the PM.
"GE is a long term investor in India. We look forward to more in the future. PM has a good head set for business. Look forward to him to continue to drive the reforms. India is a great country and place to invest," he told PTI.