Nirupama Rao, India’s Ambassador to the U.S, gave critics of the India-U.S. relationship food for thought as she offered a spirited defence of the bilateral relationship, covering issues such as the outsourcing controversy, questions relating to the pace of economic reform and the prospects for sustained momentum in nuclear and defence collaboration.

In a speech for the Asia Society given at the Bank of America building penthouse on Thursday, symbolically overlooking the White House and U.S. Treasury, Ms. Rao sought to correct the view in some corners of Washington that the relationship with India was “oversold”. “Is this a deserving judgment?” she asked, adding “I will introduce the note of dissent.”

While U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican contender in the November elections, Mitt Romney, have repeatedly traded barbs on outsourcing in the already-feverish pitch of election campaigning, some have argued that nations such as India have suffered collateral damage in this debate.

Addressing this question of job-creation, Ms. Rao said, “Our IT companies supported 280,000 jobs in the U.S. last year. The IT companies have invested more than 5 billion dollars in FDI through acquisitions and green-field projects.”

On the broader role of Indian companies in the U.S. economy, she noted that they were invested and operating in a large number of states of the U.S and were not only creating jobs and prosperity but also working closely with local communities. Specifically, she recalled a recent case that she had seen firsthand, of Tata Consulting Services’ operations near Cincinnati, Ohio, where the company was “employing largely Americans from the area”.

Ms. Rao also offered a rebuttal to those who questioned India’s capability to sustain momentum with economic reforms back home. Alluding to a recent interview by Mr. Obama, in which he worried about a deteriorating investment climate in India and said it was time to make difficult reforms, Ms. Rao said, “I am aware that questions or doubts are sometimes raised here about our pace of reforms or opening up.”

Admitting there was a need to revitalise business and investor sentiments and remove supply side bottlenecks, the Ambassador assured, “[The] government is continuing with its efforts to bring in further reforms in key sectors of economy, including FDI in multi-brand retail, insurance, power sectors.”

Dispelling some of the doubts expressed by “some American experts” about continuing prospects for bilateral cooperation in civil nuclear energy she cited Westinghouse’s recent announcement of a preliminary agreement with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India on setting up a nuclear power in Gujarat.

Defence

On defence cooperation, Ms. Rao remarked that in various reports decrying the U.S. failure to win the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft deal, “There is no, or insufficient, acknowledgement of how our defence trade which was negligible a decade ago... is now worth over $9 billion”, and included purchases of C-130J Hercules aircraft.

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