India-US economic ties are top priority: Ambassador Powell

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April, 2012

Special By Geeta Goindi

WASHINGTON, April 10 – The new US Ambassador to India Nancy J. Powell has made it clear that India-US economic and commercial ties will head her agenda as she actively promotes Indian investment in the US.

April, 2012

Special By Geeta Goindi

WASHINGTON, April 10 – The new US Ambassador to India Nancy J. Powell has made it clear that India-US economic and commercial ties will head her agenda as she actively promotes Indian investment in the US.

Referring to the “priorities for our US-India bilateral relationship” at a reception held in her honor by the US-India Business Council (USIBC), she said, “among those and at the top is our economic relationship.  Clearly, our relationship is founded on democratic values, on the shared history that we have in promoting those values.  But, the economic and commercial relationship has been a very very important one”, she stressed.

US Ambassador Nancy Powell addressing Indian and American business leaders at a reception held in her honor by the US-INDIA Business Council.

USIBC is always ahead in organizing the finest events and the reception on Tuesday was no exception!  On hand, were: Mr. Arun Kumar Singh, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy; Ron Somers, President of USIBC; Susan Esserman, former US Trade Representative; Ambassador Karl Inderfurth, former US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, currently a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); and a cross-section of Indian and American business leaders, educators, public policy experts and community activists.

Mr. Arun Kumar Singh, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy (right) addressed a USIBC meet in Washington. At left is Mr. Benoy Thomas, President of the National Council of Asian Indian Associations (NCAIA).

Powell, who leaves for Delhi on Wednesday, told the distinguished gathering: “I look forward to promoting American business, to working with the Indian community that wishes to invest in the US because it truly is a bilateral relationship with India, a two-way street”.

Powell, a career diplomat who is firmly entrenched in the Washington establishment and revered by her colleagues in the State Department,  brings extensive experience about South Asia to her new posting having served as the Ambassador to Pakistan and Nepal, Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangladesh and Consul General in Calcutta.  She has already created history by being the first woman envoy to Delhi.  In Washington, her counterpart, Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao, is the second woman in a row to occupy this premier post.  With their expertise, India-US relations should get a huge boost!

US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell at a reception held in her honor by the US-India Business Council. At right is Ashwin Saboo, Market Research Analyst at Angarai.

At the USIBC meet, Powell greeted the gathering with the traditional ‘Namaste’ immediately striking a chord with the attendees.  Steering clear of differences between Delhi and Washington on issues such as the Iran sanctions, foreign retail investment and certain aspects of the civilian nuclear agreement, her remarks were pleasing to the ear.  She joked about how former envoy John Kenneth Galbraith, a Democrat, installed a bust of Franklin Roosevelt in the residence of the American ambassador in Delhi, which is known as Roosevelt House, and this was followed by the next Republican envoy installing a bust of Theodore Roosevelt.  “As the first American woman ambassador, I am bringing one of Eleanor Roosevelt”, she said, to loud cheers.

About Eleanor Roosevelt’s visit to India 60 years ago, Powell noted that “she saw an enormous potential for American-Indian friendship”, back in 1952, “and I look forward to working with you to make that potential a reality”.

Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao was not present at the USIBC meet as she was delivering a lecture on India-US relations at Indiana University Bloomington, but she had extensive discussions with her counterpart on Friday.  Powell recalled that during the course of “a very long lunch” with India’s envoy, “we found that we have many, many, things in common, including the challenges that both of us face while fulfilling the expectations of our governments, our people and our commercial communities”.

US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell greeting members of the Indian-American community at a reception held in her honor by the US-India Business Council.

At the USIBC reception, Mr. Singh noted that “tremendous transformations have taken place in India since Ambassador Powell’s last assignment.  There have been path-breaking changes in the dynamics and substance of India-US relations”.

To the new envoy, he said, “As you go back to India, Ambassador Powell, you will find a welcoming people, tremendous public goodwill, a comprehensive architecture of engagement, comfort and confidence in the relationship, the experience of old and ambitious undertakings and the proven capacity to work together through challenges”.

Mr. Singh noted that even “in the midst of various issues and differences, the genuine warmth and friendship that people in India have towards the US and the deep, long-standing people-to-people ties have provided us a solid foundation.  With nearly 3 million Indian-Americans in the US and more than 100,000 students here, this can only grow stronger”, he predicted.

Drawing attention to Powell’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, during her confirmation hearings, he pointed out that she said, “Our relations are firmly grounded in a set of shared democratic values and an increasingly shared strategic vision”.

Regarding the business dimension of the India-US partnership, Mr. Singh cited facts and figures: bilateral trade is growing annually in double-digit figures with the US being India’s largest trading partner at $100 billion; India is the second fastest growing investor in the US economy; the Indian information technology sector contributed $15 billion to US taxes in the last five years and $1 billion annually in social security contributions; and Indian industry continues to generate hundreds of thousands of jobs in the US.

Ron Somers, who just returned from the USIBC Chairmans’ Executive Mission to India, recalled “the excitement in the air” that he experienced during his first visit to Lucknow to meet the new, young Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who asked him, ‘What do we need to do to invite American investment into Uttar Pradesh so that we can out-compete other progressive Indian states?’.

“That gave me a bolt of hope that we are heading, indeed, in the right direction”, said Somers.

The affable president of USIBC never tires of drawing attention to, and admiring, India’s sizeable young population.  “The young people of India, 54 percent of 1.2 billion people under the age of 25, clearly want change and they want progress and they are not going to be patient”, he told the gathering.  “That is the US-India’s greatest opportunity.  That new hope, that new aspiration for progress will be the centerpiece of the US-India partnership”, he said, on a confident note.

US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell at a reception held in her honor by the US-India Business Council. At left is Ajay Kapoor, a Freshman at American University.

Prior to the reception, the senior leadership of USIBC briefed Powell about the issues and concerns of American entrepreneurs investing in India.

About this interaction, Somers said, “American businesses believe joining (with their) Indian counterparts is the foundation of this partnership and of this relationship, on top of which we crown it with a strategic partnership … We want to continue with the exciting and inspiring commercial and trade relationship between the world’s two largest free market democracies”.


 

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