A US-India Partnership for Global Economic Recovery

Sunil Bharti Mittal, immediate past president of CII, leader of delegation, and chairman and CEO, Bharti Enterprises.

NEW YORK, March, 17, 2009 – With the economy slowing down, India is anxiously awaiting the national elections in April that will decide who guides the country through turbulent times. The US already survived a similar stress-test during the presidential elections last year. But the world’s two largest democracies share more than just the stage for political transformation.

In recent years, India and US have most prominently partnered in innovation; India has catalyzed technological development in the US by offering skilled labor and IT solutions. A partnership that was "a distant dream in the 80s" has grown over the past few years as both countries realize their shared vision of the future: economic and social stability, tapping alternative energy, improving public health and combating terrorism, to name a few. At Asia Society’s headquarters in New York, panelists discussed the need for deepening existing economic and political ties between the two countries.

According to the panel, India represents significant market growth opportunities for American businesses. Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and group CEO of Bharti Enterprise, noted that Indian youth, which account for 55 percent of the total population, are a potential market for American companies. And while automotive sales are down, the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector is doing fairly well according to Vijay K. Thadani, CEO of NIIT Limited. He stressed the need for the two countries to move towards greater trade cooperation noting that any protectionist policies, originating from either country, would not be the answer to financial recovery.

While the upcoming elections in India are cause for uncertainty in the markets, Tarun Das, chief mentor confederation of Indian Industry and president, Aspen Institute India, believes that there will not be a significant change in the top priorities of the country’s political agenda – development in infrastructure, insurance, multi-brand retailing, defense and human capital. C.K. Birla, chairman of Hindustan Motors Ltd., warned of an initial slowdown in the implementation of policies but assured that there would not be a retrograde of initiatives that are already in place to help recover the economy.

The US India Business Council, Confederation of Indian Industries and other organization are taking steps to make a case for a US partnership with India. Frank G. Wisner, international affairs advisor at Patton Boggs LLP, believes that India’s proposal will be well received in Washington, noting that there is no constituency amongst American businesses that is opposed to having an open trading system and strong relations with India.

Reported by Chandani Punia