In an unprecedented gesture, US Vice President Dick Cheney will headline the 31st Anniversary Leadership Summit of the US-India Business Council titled, 'Implementing the US-India Strategic Partnership,'on June 22.
He is expected to emphasize the Bush Administration's unequivocal and unambiguous commitment to the US-India strategic partnership, of which the bilateral civilian nuclear agreement is an integral facet, senior Administration officials told rediff-India Abroad.
In his first ever speech on the transformed US-India relations during his tenure as vice president, Cheney would deliver a major luncheon address running into about 30 minutes and exhort the crème de la crème of US business and industry to keep up the pressure on Congress to approve the pending legislation on the US-India nuclear deal.
This would not only enable President Bush to move the relationship even further and ensure mutual benefits for both Washington and New Delhi, but bringing India into the nuclear fold will strengthen the global nonproliferation regime, he is expected to argue.
"We had of course invited the President, but what best thing than having the Vice President over," USIBC President Ron Somers told rediff-India Abroad.
"It was important that we have the Administration given that this Administration has been out in the forefront of cementing US-India ties. When you consider the accelerated pace of the partnership, which is emerging from 9/11 to now, credit must go to the Administration," he said.
"And, if not the President, then certainly the Vice President as the Administrations representative should receive our personal thanks our gratitudefor helping us unite the these two democracies for the 21st century."
He agreed that Cheney's gracing the USIBC's anniversary, "is clearly a continuing indication that one of the priorities of the Administration is to cement US-India ties and the strategic partnership is definitely a high priority for the Administration and the Vice President's presence demonstrates the priority that they place on the importance of this partnership."
"It would be major address and it will clearly be articulating the importance of deepening the strategic partnership as embodied in the civilian nuclear cooperation initiative between the United States and India," he added.
Rick Rossow, an eight-year veteran at the USIBC, who is the organization's director, operations, told rediff-India Abroad that this would be the first time Cheney would be stepping up to the podium anywhere "to talk about the relationship with India."
"It was a pleasant surprise for us that he agreed to come over and do this just because he's been a little quieter than others on the relationship," he said. "So this is the first time that he will give a major public address on the US-India relationship."
"Of course, this is an opportunity for the Vice President to make a pretty good pitch in front of industry that industry needs to be more active on it (pushing for the approval of the US-India nuclear deal legislation in Congress)."
Somers will kick off the day-long conference with welcoming remarks. Then, after Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen's inaugural remarks, USIBC chairman and co-president of Warburg Pincus Charles 'Chip' Kaye, will deliver the State of Council address.
This will be followed by the USIBC's 31st anniversary Leadership Awards that will be presented to 'India's Most Respected Multinational Business Conglomerate,' the Tata Group of Companies and the 'US Company Contributing Most to the Indo-US Commercial Relationship,' Honeywell International.
Former US Ambassador to India Thomas Pickering, currently with The Boeing Company, will introduce and present the award to Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, while Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman and managing director of Biocon, will introduce and make the presentation to David M Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell.
Rossow said it is likely that Tata in his remarks would speak about his company's growing investment in the US and the more than 7,000 employees across the different companies in this country. "A little bit of reverse outsourcing in a sense if you will," he said.
Cheney will make his special address at noon, after being introduced by former US Ambassador to India Robert D Blackwill, currently president of Barbour Griffith and Rogers International, the government of India's $50,000 a month lobbying firm.
Following the Vice President's speech, he will receive the USIBC's Distinguished Service Award for Exemplary Leadership in Uniting the United States and India -- Two Great Democracies for the 21st Century, from Robert Mosbacher, Sr, former Commerce Secretary and currently chairman and CEO of Mosbacher Energy.
The afternoon session will include a Strategic Dialogue Roundtable titled 'The Economic Case for a Stronger US-India Strategic Partnership,' with the keynote address by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, the chief US negotiator of the US-India nuclear deal, and remarks by former US Defense Secretary William S Cohen, currently chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group;Retired Admiral Walter F Doran, vice president, Raytheon Company; Dr Amit Mitra, Secretary General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry; and Retired Lt.General Daniel Christman, senior vice president, US Chamber of Commerce.
The next panel will be an Investment Dialogue Roundtable on The Convergence of Two Dynamic Economies with Allan Hubbard, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director, National Economic Council at the White House delivering the keynote, followed by Kaye; Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, India; Mazumdar-Shaw; William Harrison Jr. chairman, JP Morgan Chase; and Tarun Das, Chief Mentor, Confederation of Indian Industry.
The final discussion on 'Enhanced US-India Trade:The Way Forward,' is likely to to be keynoted by the newly minted US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, whom Rossow said, "we have invited and are waiting for a confirmation from." The closing address will be by India's Minister of Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath, who delivered the concluding remarks at last year's USIBC anniversary too.
Former US Ambassador to India Frank Wisner, vice president of the American International Group and considered the 'godfather' of the USIBC, would introduce Schwab if she makes it for the event, while chairman emeritus of McKinsey and Company and former chairman of USIBC Rajat Gupta will do the honors of introducing Nath.
The attendees will then go across from the US Chamber of Commerce building to The Stephen Decatur House Museum for a reception and then return to The International Hall of Flags in the US Chamber of Commerce for a gala dinner that will be preceded by a musical recital featuring Anoushka Shankar, two-time Grammy Awards sitar player, and daughter of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Somers told rediff India Abroad that "we are trying to get Senator Joe Biden (Delaware Democrat and ranking minority member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee) to keynote our dinner and hopefully get some good news that senior Democrats like him will co-sponsor the (US-India nuclear) legislation and make sure it is approved by the Senate."