BY DR. ALWYN DIDAR SINGH
It’s a game changing moment. With the new government in India, we are witnessing a
remarkable transition in Indo-US
Bilateral relations. The acceptance
of President Obama’s invitation for
bilateral talks in September 2014
has given clear signals towards re-
invigoration of the foreign policy
for mutual interest. Since then,
there have been assertions and affirmations on India-US
Collaboration by both federal and state governments,
politicians, business, think tanks, media, and the public.
This summer, key officials of the US administration and
the new Indian Government led by Prime Minister Modi,
have been meticulously identifying constraints, complexi-ties, and opportunities persisting in India-US bilateral
relations. The sheer breadth of our commercial relations
is evident from the enthusiasm and expectations set on
both the sides.
The high-level US engagement with India highlights the
aspirations of Americans to deepen, broaden, and re-energize the overall India-US relationship. There has
been lot of buzz around the revival of bilateral dialogues
ranging from the counter-terrorism joint Working Group,
ministerial-level Homeland Security, Trade Policy
Forum, High Technology Cooperation Group, and discussions on the Immigration Policy Reform, to other mechanisms for bilateral discussion.
The recent 5th India - US Strategic Dialogue and the
course of discussions over the last few months has set the
tone and agenda to be taken up at the Modi-Obama
Summit. All eyes are set on this meeting as it is an opportunity to take the relationship to the next level and making Americans a part of the Indian growth story.
In the recent past, it has been evident that the U.S and
India are continuing efforts to deepen their economic
relationship, improve investor confidence, and support
economic growth in both countries.
Over the past few years, the two economies have
become increasingly entwined and interconnected. The
trade of goods and services between them have increased
manifold and today the United States is one of India’s
largest trade and investment partners; bilateral trade
between the two countries has nearly grown to 100
With this backdrop, there remain several opportunities
for India and US to build on a stronger political and economic relationship. India and U.S bilateral ties can transform into a global strategic partnership, exploring convergence of interests on bilateral and global issues.
There remain several areas of cooperation viz. education, infrastructure, energy, IT, defense, agricultural
biotechnology, and healthcare among many others which
can be explored by the two giants for mutual gains.
Indian industry and American industry have both
appreciated the move of the Indian government to open
up 49 per cent Foreign Direct Investment in the Defense
The joint statement of the strategic dialogue has clearly
outlined the possibilities of collaboration in terms of
deepening discussions on military exercises, defense
trade, co-production and co-development, and research
on new technologies for the defense sector.
India needs the expertise and best practices of
American defense companies to build upon its defense
capabilities in terms of planning and acquisitions.
A meaningful partnership with the US is indispensable
given the geo-political situation in today’s world.
The Indian Industry also needs the cutting edge technology of the US in the realm of renewable energy to
grope with challenges of energy supply and energy security.
We need a road map to scale down our dependence on
energy imports and achieve energy independence and
The Government has to follow an innovative approach
in terms of developing technologies to upgrade the
India’s level for harnessing clean energy as well as grappling with challenges of climate change. Energy is definitely a high priority for the new Government which is
focused on manufacturing for revival of economic growth
and job creation.
Undoubtedly, the new Government needs the expertise
of US Companies to give a fillip to manufacturing and
Though the Government has been focusing on a policy
of faster and time-bound project clearances, there is a
need for successful platforms such as Manufacturing
Dialogues and US-India Infrastructure Platform to bring
together the Indian and American companies for exploring collaboration projects and to encourage investments
in this sector.
However, the whole gamut of India-US collaboration
cannot simply be restricted to the aforementioned sectors. There is much more to this bilateral relationship,
especially the future of the youth of these countries.
Education and skills development are important areas of
To illustrate, India can consider adapting the community colleges model of the United States to increase opportunities for young people.
This will entail strengthening exchange in technical
education, in vocational programs for high-skilled trades,
and especially in areas where we can build on the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of both of our nations.
The US has had a natural advantage in attracting the
best and the brightest; emigration from India has not
been an exception. The Indian Diaspora has been playing
a critical role in strengthening the bond between India
and the U.S.
In the last quarter of the 20th Century, the character of
Indian emigration to the US changed significantly, giving
rise to the emergence of a ‘new Diaspora’ and now numbers more than 3 million; the formation of which was led
by progressive US policies for highly-skilled migrants.
Indian migration to the United States in the recent
past, therefore, has been increasingly dominated by professionals - academics, scientists, engineers and doctors.
This group of migrants has come to espouse what is now
popularly referred to as, ‘brain circulation’; they have in
no small measure contributed to creation of jobs, robustness and growth of the economy, competitiveness, and
most importantly a freer flow of ideas and innovation
between the two countries.
Going beyond an almost exclusive focus on remittances
towards the development story for India, the Indian
Diaspora has influenced the emergence of trans-national
networks that help build important connections with
India; giving impetus to investment, technology transfer,
and the enhanced circular portability of skills.
Rapid developments in transportation, communication,
ply chains have spurred innovation and entrepreneurship
in a ‘virtual world’.
In addition to being a valuable source of capital, technology and innovation, the Indian Diaspora in the United
States has also increasingly been seen as building bridges
for a two-way flow of capital, goods and technology
between India and the United States.
In the first decade of the 21st Century, we are also
beginning to see the mobility of the Indo-American
entrepreneurs from the United States to India - reverse
migration, in a sense - to spur innovation and change in
India, drawing upon their experience in the United
There is evidence to suggest that conditions in India are
conducive to entrepreneurship and innovation.
While return migration still remains a small trickle, a
pattern is beginning to emerge: of Indian- Americans as
global citizens, straddling two worlds - living and working in the country of origin as well as of destination -
embracing the best of both.
This has led to the emergence of the phenomenon of
‘circular migration’, representing a virtuous cycle of
mobility of professionals enriching both the country of
origin as well as the country of destination; strengthening
business and entrepreneurial ties; and drawing upon the
best of both worlds to spur innovation and development;
and in the process also contributing to increasing trade
and investment between the two countries.
It is incumbent, therefore, upon the Indian policy
regime to create and establish conditions and institutions
for sustainable, symbiotic and a continuous mutually
rewarding engagement between the two countries.
An enabling ecosystem will allow for a more effective
engagement with the Indian Diaspora in the US.
After the tumultuous period of bilateral relations last
year, India and US relations are evolving into the phase
of opportunities and collaborations to build upon the
The leadership of both the countries will mould the foreign policy of the countries for a long term partnership at
the end of this month.
Both the Governments have to keep up with expectations of businesses in terms of policy framework for economic reforms.
FICCI (India’s oldest and largest business federation) is
hopeful that agreeable and positive solutions will be
reached in terms of issues pertinent to our times.
These include the revision of visa regulation impacting
the Indian IT Industry; we are hopeful that promises
made will be followed through as this will have a tremendous impact on two very important aspects for both the
economies - jobs and competitiveness.
Recent evidence and a great deal of empirical work
have extolled the virtues of temporary migration programs as being beneficial to both, the countries of origin
and the countries of destination; we do hope that this
challenge to recognize mutually beneficial connections
will be taken up by policymakers to result in a more generous temporary workers program.
Another area is finding resolutions for the problems
faced by the Indian pharmaceutical Industry in gaining
better market access.
Finally, there is a need for a more comprehensive totalization agreement between the two countries. We have
high hopes that bilateral relations between the two
vibrant democracies will outshine all others.
(Dr. Alwyn Didar Singh is Secretary General,
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and
Industry (FICCI) and former Secretary of Ministry of
Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA).
New approach in empowering India-US relations
strategy should entail
assertion over negation