Why PM Modi’s visit to US matters: Making Big Ideas Work


Modi

All eyes are now on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second trip to US after assuming charge last year and his third Summit with President Barack Obama in one year’s time. His first bilateral meeting took place last year in Washington DC on September 29, 2014. What has added great excitement to this visit is not the ostensible reason for which Mr Modi has undertaken the trip, which was to participate in the UN Sustainable Development Summit on September 25 to adopt the Sustainable Development Goal document, but because he will be the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Silicon Valley and also the first Indian PM to travel to the West Coast after Indira Gandhi in 1982.

Although the usual elements of meetings, deliberations and interactions with world leaders, both in New York and West Coast are included in the itinerary, the most significant takeaways of the visit would be his interaction with President Obama on September 28 in New York. PM Modi’s meetings with CEOs and top honchos of US companies and enterprises in New York and the West Coast look set to rekindle the India story in the US and spur the much-needed US investments into India.

Connecting with Silicon Valley

CEO club

Mr Modi will visit the headquarters of Facebook and have a Town hall meeting with its CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He has termed this Event as ‘’not to be missed’’. On his visit to Google, Modi will be presented with a set of 24 mobile and web apps which the engineers of Tech Mahindra in Noida and Google’s Mountain View base would have produced over a night long Hackathon to provide solutions to some of India’s flagship Programmes like Digital India, Skill India, Smart Cities etc. He will also visit and meet the CEO of Tesla Motors Elon Musk for discussions on storage of solar cell power. Tesla, an automotive and energy storage pioneer counted among the most innovative companies in the world, has produced cutting edge technology in this area and Modi’s penchant for renewable energy could lead this company to make a strong early debut in the Indian market.

Mr Modi is excited about the India-US Start up Konnect being put together by NASSCOM, TiE Silicon Valley and CIIE from IIM Ahmadabad to showcase some Indian inventions for meeting challenges of physical infrastructure, energy, Clean India, health and education being confronted by India today.

Mr Modi will host 400 CEOs of innovative technology companies and invite them to India to partner the government and entrepreneurs in implementation of some of our major projects. He will also confer with heads of some prominent Fortune 500 Companies in New York to seek their thoughts on providing an impulse to India’s economic growth.

The stage for Mr Modi’s visit has been meticulously prepared with decision by the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs on September 22, a day prior to Modi’s departure on his tour, to purchase 22 Apache attack and 15 Chinook heavy deployment helicopters worth USD 2.5 billion from US defence major Boeing. Over the last few years, the US has emerged as the biggest supplier of defence equipment to India overtaking Russia, Israel and France with cumulative orders of more than USD 10 billion. This was unimaginable just a decade ago when the first Defence Agreement between the two countries was finalised during the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit in June, 2005 to Washington DC.

Several far-reaching decisions were taken at the first Meeting of the Security and Commercial Dialogue co-chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Secretary of State John Kerry. This Meeting was also attended by Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman from the Indian side and US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker from the US side. It was decided to launch a high level dialogue between Indian Foreign Secretary and US Deputy Secretary of State. Far reaching decision to jointly fight the menace of terrorism particularly in South Asia and Afghanistan was taken. The US support for India’s Membership of the four major global non-proliferation export control regimes, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group, as well as in an expanded UN Security Council were reiterated. Both sides agreed to actively collaborate in the area of renewable energy, climate change and work towards an ambitious outcome at COP-21 in Paris in December this year.

Fast-tracking UNSC reforms

G4

In recognition of the major achievement of adoption of a text for continuing negotiations for expansion and reform of the UN Security Council in the 70th year of its establishment, PM Modi held a meeting with the leaders of G-4 countries (Japan, Germany, Brazil and India), which has helped delineate a strategy to take discussions to their logical conclusion in a short time-frame. It, however, needs to be kept in mind that the way forward is tortuous and thorny. Notwithstanding the support of several coalitions and groups for text-based negotiations, the opposition of several important members and groups will have to be overcome.

PM Modi will interact with Apple CEO Cook and Microsoft CEO Nadella, and the Governor of California Jerry Brown during his stay in San Jose, California. He will also take part in a round-table discussion on clean technologies and renewable energy at Stanford University with USDOC, where he will hear about inventions and ideas for sustainable development.

Inspiring Diaspora

The Indian diaspora will get an opportunity to listen to and cheer PM Modi in what is being trumped as an event which would be as grand as the one last year at Madison Square Garden in New York. In California it will take place at the SAP Centre in San Jose with a capacity of more than 17,000 people.

Modi’s interaction on the last day of his stay with Obama is expected to be significant as the focus of talks is likely to be on climate change and ways to produce an ambitious outcome at COP-21 Meeting in December in Paris. Bilateral economic and defence ties, terrorism and developments in South Asia, Asia-Pacific, West Asia and Europe are also likely to feature in discussions.

PM Modi’s visit to the US, the world’s preeminent power, will provide a strong impetus to projecting India as an increasingly influential global power and a rapidly expanding economy. Meetings with business CEOs and innovators will help India deal with its endemic problems and lead it on path to security, stability, growth and development.

(Ashok Sajjanhar is a former ambassador of India and a commentator on foreign policy issues. This article has been written exclusively for India Writes Network)