Upbeat mood persists after Modi visit

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:24 pm IST

Published - October 03, 2014 10:44 pm IST - Washington:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a breakfast meeting with American CEOs in New York.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a breakfast meeting with American CEOs in New York.

Business and government leaders alike appeared to be basking in the afterglow of the U.S. visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose five-day tour to this country concluded on Tuesday after hitting high notes especially on the commercial front, holding out the promise of greater bilateral trade and investment through less red tape and more economic openness in India going forward.

In a private briefing senior business executives of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry expressed unequivocal optimism that Mr. Modi had conveyed to the CEOs of top U.S. corporations in New York the emphasis that he places upon improving India’s “ease of doing business,” factor, adding that this would matter significantly to “cheques that will be cut later.”

“The real test for any CEO – British, American or German – to invest is to see whether Indians themselves are investing [in the Indian economy], and today Indians have stopped investing although today they still comprise [over] 90 per cent of the investments in India,” said FICCI President Sidharth Birla.

Mr. Birla added that even as Mr. Modi promised progress to a global audience, “We are watching and we have a far bigger hope than before, that Mr. Modi puts his money where his mouth is, and for the ‘Make in India,’ initiative, for example, the land and labour laws and infrastructural efficiency issues [will be addressed].”

Similarly Y.K. Modi, a past President of FICCI, said that the Prime Minister had shown via his “excellent track record as the Gujarat Chief Minister, which he is cleverly using” to prove that he is willing to “walk the talk,” and deal with the “nuts and bolts,” as a means to improving the macroeconomic situation in the country.

He said that both foreign and Indian businesses were not necessarily waiting for a “miracle” transformation of the economy before investing in India, rather “What people are expecting is that the government does not become a hurdle, which it was.”

U.S. officials appeared to echo the sentiments of this assessment, with Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Nisha Biswal, saying in briefing with select media here, “We’ve got folks who are firming up travel plans, because whether it’s on a trade policy forum to reinvigorate our conversations on trade issues, on issues like the Bilateral Investment Treaty… the Contact Group on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, whether it’s on higher education and skills, or energy or counterterrorism, we are lining up a pretty ambitious agenda of engagement.”

Philip Reiner National Security Council Senior Director for India suggested that there was optimism and a positive assessment of the meeting between Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama who seemed to hit it off over a their shared experiences in government.

He said, “They shared a lot of stories [and] found a great deal of common experience when it comes to first coming into government and realising just how bad government works, and acknowledging that there is so much more that could be done in government with technology, but it’s just so much slower inside.”

Mr. Reiner noted that when Mr. Obama entered office, he was facing the greatest economic catastrophe the world has seen since the Depression in the 1930s, and similarly Mr. Modi said that “India has faced a mass exodus of industrial investment and that as he has come in the door, you’ve already seen a turnaround. You’ve seen the stock market really explode. You’ve seen the growth rate increase.”

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