All eyes on Modi, Obama meeting

All eyes on Modi, Obama meeting

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, meets President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday in what the Obama administration said was an effort by both countries to build a new strategic alliance.

Washington: India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, meets President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday in what the Obama administration said was an effort by both countries to build a new strategic alliance. Modi was greeted in New York on Sunday by enthusiastic members of the Indian diaspora.

Obama will host a private dinner on Monday evening (5 am IST on Tuesday) for the Indian prime minister during his first state visit since his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won parliamentary elections in a landslide in May. That will be followed by bilateral discussions on Tuesday that White House spokesman Josh Earnest called an effort to expand and deepen the US.-India strategic partnership.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj exchanging greetings with former US President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton during a meeting in New York on Monday.  Photo: PTI
"It is a partnership that is highly valued by this country. We will discuss ways to accelerate economic growth, bolster security cooperation and collaborate on activities that bring long-term benefits to both countries and the world," Earnest said.

"We’ll focus on regional issues, including current developments in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, where India and the United States can work together with partners toward a positive outcome. The President himself looks forward to working with the prime minister to fulfill the promise of the US-India strategic partnership for the benefit of citizens in both our countries," Earnest added.

'Defining partnership'
Obama administration officials have called the bilateral relationship "a defining partnership of the 21st century." The United States has expressed support for Modi's economic reforms and will offer assistance in counter-terrorism and energy security. The Indian prime minister is also expected to meet with corporate leaders from companies including Google, IBM, General Electric, Goldman Sachs and Boeing in a bid to lure foreign investment. RAND Corporation India analyst Rafiq Dossani said Modi’s message to them is simple: India is open for business.

"[Modi will say] that the red tape that historically almost defines doing business in India is a thing of the past. There are things here in which he is promising that he has yet to deliver on, but his intent is to deliver a strong message that things will change," Dossani said.

IHS Global chief economist Rajiv Biswas said India is looking to the United States to help New Delhi modernize its armed forces and develop its domestic defence industry.

"For Prime Minister Modi, the key priorities during his visit to the US are the economic aspects, to build up the trade and investment relationship, to persuade U.S. multinationals that India is on the rise again, the economy is on the mend, that he is going to be much more dynamic than the previous government in dealing with new approvals for investments," Biswas said.

"And also to strengthen defense cooperation with a number of major negotiations now very well advanced particularly for a deal of $2.5 billion for the Indian military purchase of Apache and Chinook military helicopters, but also other major deals are under negotiation as well," he added. Biswas said India represents one of the world’s fastest-growing consumer markets, with total consumer spending forecast to rise from $1.1 trillion last year to $4.3 trillion by 2023.

Bilateral trade reached $63.7 billion in 2013, slightly below what India traded with China.

But, Biswas pointed out, when trade in services is factored in, the U.S.-India trade relationship actually totaled about $94 billion last year.

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