In US, PM pitches for American investment
Washington: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday called for enhanced American investment in India, in a bid to transform the current bilateral relationship into a strategic one underpinned by strong economic ties.
"A strategic relationship that is not underpinned by a strong economic relationship is unlikely to prosper," the Prime Minister said addressing the US India Business Council (USIBC) made up of top US companies investing in India.
"On the other hand, a web of economic relationships intensifies both business-to-business and people-to-people contacts, promoting a deeper and better understanding between countries.
"That is the kind of relationship we want with the United States," he said underlining that "India's new and evolving relationship with the United States is in many ways the natural consequence of changes in economic policies and business practices."
The PM assured American businesses that India will continue down the road for economic reforms and will recover its economic growth rate of nine percent that was dented by global economic crisis in two years.
Singh said India, like other emerging economies, was affected by the global financial crisis and its growth rate slowed down.
Growth rate decelerated to 6.7 percent in 2008-09 and will remain at around 6.5 percent in the current year, Singh said, adding "however, we expect to accelerate from this level and get back to a growth of around 9 percent within two years".
Pitching for greater American investment in areas ranging from infrastructure to agriculture and defence, Manmohan Singh said economic reforms started by India in the 1990s will continue.
"Wherever I meet businessmen to talk of our plans for the future, the question I am most often asked is whether economic reforms will continue," he said.
But "you should have no doubt on that score. The economic reforms of the past have brought us advantages and I can assure you that we will continue down the road."
"We might do it gradually, and in a manner which builds a consensus for change. But I assure you we will persevere," he said.
The Prime Minister added that his government will push ahead with key reforms in myriad areas, especially those aimed at bringing the deficit under control while ensuring a strong expansion in investment in infrastructure.
"Tax reforms, especially the introduction of a Goods and Services Tax, are a very important part of the agenda. So also are financial sector reforms," he said.
He also assured American business that legal reforms aimed at reducing delays are another priority of his government.
The PM shook hands with top American and Indian business leaders and posed for a group photo with American and Indian flags positioned against a navy blue backdrop in the Daniel Webster Room of the US Chamber of Commerce.
Tom Donhue, president of the US chamber of Commerce, and Indira Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi and chairperson of the US India Business Council, were among those present at the event that showcased growing economic ties between the two countries.
Commenting on the Indo-US nuclear deal, the PM said the two sides were finalising the details of the pact that will make their landmark atomic agreement "fully operational".
"We are currently finalising the details that will make the agreement fully operational," Manmohan Singh told American business leaders.
The PM’s remarks on the nuclear deal came on the second day of his four-day visit, and just a day before he sits down for talks with US President Barack Obama. Dr Singh, who will be the first state guest of Obama at the White House, said he looked forward to his discussions with the US President.
The wide-ranging talks between the two leaders are expected to deepen and diversify strategic partnership between India and the US and assure New Delhi that there has been no cooling off of bilateral ties under the Obama administration.
Manmohan Singh arrived here Sunday afternoon and was accorded a rousing ceremonial welcome at St Andrews Air Force Base.
He thanked the American business community for promoting the landmark nuclear deal and underlined that the completion of the deal, inked in October last year, will open up huge business opportunities for the US companies.
"The nuclear agreement was a landmark in India-US relations and I would like to acknowledge with deep appreciation, the very supportive role American business played in persuading Congress to support the initiative.
"Once that is done, it will remove restrictions on the flow of technology in nuclear and many other areas," Dr Singh said.
"This will open up a large area of commercial opportunities for US business," he added.
An agreement on reprocessing spent fuel in a dedicated national facility under international safeguards is on the verge of being concluded and is expected to be announced Tuesday after talks between Manmohan Singh and Obama.
The crucial reprocessing agreement will clear the last hurdle in the way of resuming nuclear commerce between India and the US after a gap of 34 years.
The PM further said India and the US were all set to sign a memorandum of understanding on energy security, clean energy and climate change.
Noting that these are areas where American companies are leaders in the field, the PM said: "We should explore possible areas of cooperation."
As India works with other countries "to meet the challenge of climate change, we are also addressing the problem domestically through a National Action Plan for Climate Change, which outlines many new initiatives in energy efficiency, and clean energy," he said.
The PM’s announcement was a clear indication that India and the US have substantially bridged differences in their approach towards international climate negotiations at Copenhagen, due in December.
After the MoU is signed during Tuesday's summit between Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama, a number of collaborative projects are likely to be announced soon, official sources said.