US is India’s best friend: Biden

First strategic and commercial dialogue begins; Bhartia, Nooyi honoured

The first India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue kicked off with a high-profile event addressed by US Vice-President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and attended by around 400 business leaders from both countries.

The dialogue was established by U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting last year, and is taking place even as policymakers on both sides admit that the bilateral synergy in strategic aspects is not matched in business and commerce.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Power Minister Piyush Goyal also spoke at the event, which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC). The dual-track dialogue will take place on Tuesday, and is expected to come out with a joint statement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive in New York on September 24 for a five-day tour of the US.

Reiterating an earlier statement by Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden said Indo-US partnership would define the 21st century. “It is no longer about mere partnership. This administration wants to be the best friend of India,” he said. Mr Biden added that entrenched interests always preferred status quo and called for more reforms to achieve the full potential of bilateral trade and cooperation.

Secretary of State Mr. Kerry said: “And while there’s always room for improvement, it’s very, very clear that the climate for bilateral investment and trade has never been better. And that is true in everything from clean energy to aerospace to financial services and movies, where, obviously, Hollywood and Bollywood reign supreme.”

USIBC also announced the launch of US Business Centers in India, which, council president Mukesh Aghi said, would “support the entry of US small and mid-sized companies, universities, and skills’ providers into the market.”

External Affairs Minister Ms. Swaraj said the natural synergy of values enabled both countries to have close ties and Mr Modi’s “creative approach and steady stream of new ideas,” had dramatically improved Indo-US cooperation in the last one year. “The scale of India’s economic ambitions gives an unprecedented opportunity to US businesses,” she said.

Mr. Goyal said the Modi government was very clear that rather than meeting the individual requirements of particular companies, structural changes were required to form a robust framework that enabled business and commerce. “We want to ensure that decisions are transparent and processes well established so that as investors, you will sleep peacefully,” he said, referring to the cancellation of coal block allocations by the court.

Speaking at a panel discussion on “Why Make in India?” Industries Secretary Amitabh Kant said what India needed was not merely growth but growth that created jobs. “We need to expand sectors that create a lot of jobs. To achieve that, we need to dismantle, and in fact throw into garbage the existing labour laws of India,” he said.

Global Leadership Awards to Shobhana Bhartia, Indra Nooyi

Shobhana Bhartia, chairperson and Editorial Director of HT Media and Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo received the USIBC Global Leadership Awards at the function. USIBC president Mr. Aghi said both were honored for their “contributions and commitment to driving a more inclusive global economy and for their roles as women leaders.”

“This is truly a humbling experience,” Ms. Bhartia said after receiving the award. “As the representative of a media group that realises the importance of looking at both India Shining, and the Other India to get a real picture of what is happening in our country, and as a woman leader in a nation where women are finally coming into their own, I am delighted to receive this award,” she said, adding that there could be increasing opportunities for media and technology companies from India and the U.S to collaborate, “as they navigate the evolving digital landscape.”

Ms. Nooyi said PepsiCo’s partnership with Indian farmers had been gainful for both and there were tremendous opportunities ahead to work together in new ways. “We believe in the potential of our great nations, India and the US,” she said.