'Perception of India has changed in the US'

Thursday, 22 April 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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WASHINGTON: India is perceived as an "economic juggernaut" moving slowly but steadily towards becoming a global power, visiting Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) president Anand Mahindra said here.

Addressing a press conference Wednesday night, Mahindra was upbeat about the US-India economic relations, stressing the fact that the Indian economy had grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade.

He said, "It is amazing how there is a sea-change in the US perceptions about India. The picture of starving people does not exist anymore. India is now seen as a country of smart, politically savvy, highly qualified people."

"The country is well poised to become the biggest exporter of goods and could provide the breeding ground for the growth of Indian multinationals," he said.

"The IT (Information Technology) industry has completely transformed the face of India," he said. "There is a demand for two million cell phones and one million cars in India because of the growing middle class.

"And we have achieved all this growth within the democratic framework. China too is a fast growing economy, but it is not a democracy."

Mahindra, who led a CII delegation to the US, met congressmen, senators, think tank representatives and Bush administration officials, including trade representative Robert Zoellick, Under Secretary of Commerce Kenneth Juster and former ambassador to India Robert Blackwill.

At all the meetings, Mahindra said, the delegation members emphasised the potential for India's economic achievements.

Asked about outsourcing, Mahindra said no one had raised it as a subject for discussion. But he explained during his meetings "that the larger story of outsourcing is that India is offering a huge opportunity for American business".

Asked to comment on Zoellick's remarks that India's economy is the most closed in the world and that it should take steps to ease trade barriers in order to increase American exports, Mahindra said they had ignored how much progress India had made in breaking down trade barriers since 1991.

Boston Consulting Group (India) Pvt. Ltd. chairman Arun Maira, a member of the CII delegation, said he had explained to the Americans that India had an intellectual property regime (IPR) in place and that it was being implemented vigorously.

On pending legislations against outsourcing in the US states, Mahindra said concerns had been expressed about security and privacy matters in data exchange. "We propose to address these issues through NASSCOM," he added.

Other members of the CII delegation present at the press conference were: Tarun Das, director general, CII, T.N. Ninan, editor and publisher of Business Standard, S. Ramadorai, CEO of Tata Consultancy Services, and Kiran Pasricha, senior director CII, USA.

Earlier, addressing the Global Business Dialogue, a private sector forum for trade policy discussions, Mahindra spoke of the great optimism that pervades Indo-US relations, but somehow "we haven't come of age on the business side".

"We have an unfinished agenda and it is time for both governments to move forward but India also has to solve some of those problems," he noted.

US Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs Alan Larson stressed at the meeting the need for both the countries to ensure that more openness, and not protectionism, which was the key to future economic prosperity.

Even though he spoke of how Indo-US economic relations had expanded in the last few years, much needs to be done about long-standing disputes over intellectual property rights protection, biotechnology.

The controversial Indian power plant project, the Dabhol project, must also be resolved, he opined.

"We can't let those old issues drag this relationship down. They will unless we solve them," he said.

Mahindra and Ninan also took part in a panel discussion organised by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, on IPR issues, especially in the pharmaceutical and health care industry and the need to bring down the fiscal deficit.

They spoke of the steady growth rate achieved by India in the last few years and about India's very comfortable foreign exchange reserves position.

Ninan argued that fiscal deficit has been dealt with a control on government spending. The single biggest issue in the budget was interest payment, he said.

The interest rates had been brought down and it would gradually bring down the fiscal deficit as well, he added.

Source: IANS
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