Vice President Cheney Speaks at US India Business Council’s 31st Leadership Summit
I attended last week -- as I have since 2002 -- this annual summit. Having been on the Board of the US India Business Council* from 2002 to 2005, I have been passionate about fostering a positive perception of India in the US. Further, having lived and experienced the early ‘reform era’ since 1994 in India, I can say that the economic dialogue between the two nations had been frustrating at best. India had been slow to react to American interests, while the latter had ‘ignored’ India in all its attempts to demonstrate a real, radical change in its economic policies that benefit its people.

However, this year marks a dramatic shift from previous years in its recognition by the US of India’s development over the past decade. This was evidenced by the presence of over 500 very influential Indian and American business representatives who were present. The real evidence, though, was the representation of the US Government at the highest levels, in the form of an authoritative speech by Vice President Dick Cheney. Further evidence was the presence of US Ambassador Susan Schwab, the just appointed US Trade Representative, several former US Ambassadors to India, and the recognition of David Cote, Chairman and CEO of Honeywell, and Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata group of companies, for the highest business contribution to the Indo-US relationship

Vice President Cheney had an already enthusiastic audience in rapt attention, as he recounted the history and current state of affairs of the US India relationship, and then gave an insight into the ‘way forward’ for a stronger strategic partnership.

He covered topics such as:

Dynamics of the cold war, and its impact on the relationship
An emerging new partnership based on mutual trust, and shared common values of democracy and commercial ties
A strong alliance based on the moral clarity of India’s leadership, as US dominates as India’s largest trading partner
The current presence of Fortune 500 companies in India
The opportunity to operate in and profit in various sectors: technology, outsourcing, retail, defense, real estate, infrastructure and agriculture, in which India is already a leader
Resolution of challenges to the relationship: reduction in trade tariffs and intellectual property rights (IPR) reform
The work of the CEO Forum (set up by President Bush and Prime Minister Singh) which consists of 10 corporate CEOs from each side
How “off shoring” and outsourcing is important to the two countries to rebalance the demographic shifts happening across the globe today; how US’s “protectionist” reaction will only hurt the future innovation in the US.
Focus of both countries on education, innovation, skills development, exchange of knowledge and entrepreneurship.
The strategic partnership around the Civil Nuclear agreement.

It was apparent that the White House and the bipartisan Congress had understood the economic “shift” taking place in India, and to which the US needs to pay attention. Further, US companies should capitalize on the opportunities that exist for them in India; they need to think seriously about an India strategy.

Do you have an India strategy?

*The US India Business Council is the premier policy-development organization promoting American economic interests in India. Formed in 1975 at the request of the two governments, the USIBC strengthens Indo-US relations on trade and investment issues. Its primary mission is to foster a bilateral dialogue between key business and government decision makers, encouraging progressive policies in the two countries. It is established under the aegis of the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC.