Prime Minister Modi to Corporate America: “Invest in India before the queue gets too long”
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, September 30, 2014 – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message to US business leaders was clear and concise: Come, invest in India; the queue will get very long.
In a candid address to Corporate America, at a sparkling reception organized by the US-India Business Council (USIBC), the leader of the world’s largest democracy said, “I urge you to come and invest in India before the queue gets too long”.
The Prime Minister was capping off a remarkable five-day US visit to New York and Washington and he expressed gratitude for such a positive response. “My trip has been very successful”, he said. “Thank you America! Few could have got so much from the US in such a short time. You all have honored me and welcomed me and I’m very grateful for that”.
The USIBC event drew a powerhouse Indian and American gathering to the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, located in the vicinity of the White House! The magnificent venue was packed with diplomats, elected officials, business and industry heavyweights, members of the press and media. Among the distinguished guests were: Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj; Indian Ambassador Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar; Deputy Chief of Mission Mr. Taranjit Sandhu in the Indian Embassy; US Charge d’affaires to India, Kathleen Stephens; Nisha Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia in the State Department; Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, Democratic Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus;, Congressmen Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Congressman Joseph Crowley of New York, Democratic Co-Chair of the House India Caucus; Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA); Jim Kim, President of the World Bank; Tom Donohue, President of the US Chamber of Commerce; USIBC Chairman Ajay Banga who is also President and CEO of MasterCard; and acting USIBC President Diane Farrell.
In her welcome remarks, Farrell noted that this is “such an historic occasion, the Prime Minister’s first address to USIBC, the business community at large. All of you represent the 300-plus companies that are part of the US-India Business Council”, she said, looking around the packed room.
Modi is a leader on the move and his every step, every statement embodies it! India is determined to move forward in the economic arena, he emphasized throughout his visit. In fact, economic and security issues dominated bilateral discussions.
Speaking in Hindi, Modi told leaders of business and industry at the USIBC reception, “There is no need to waste any time on searching for an answer to the question, why are we lagging behind? We need to make only one small decision: Chalo Nikal Paro” (Come, let’s move).
Cognizant of the concerns of American investors, the prime minister assured them of scrapping unnecessary bureaucratic regulations and promoting a business-friendly environment. India will have “effective governance, easy governance”, he promised.
“It is the responsibility of my government to provide a development friendly environment”, he said. “Whether there is a red carpet or not, it doesn’t matter to investors. There will be no red tape-ism. Government has no business to be there in business. Our job is to be a facilitator”. In this regard, he mentioned that his government has decided on a record disinvestment of $10 billion.
Potential investors, he noted, are looking for a proper infrastructure, human resources, and an ease of conducting business. “We will get rid of obsolete, unnecessary laws”, he pledged. They will be replaced by simple laws which he likened to a breath of fresh air. “Within six months, we will accomplish this”, Modi told the attentive gathering.
A forward-thinking leader, he believes that “government should always be two steps ahead when it comes to fulfilling the needs of its people”. His much-touted ‘Make In India’ initiative is focused on growth in the manufacturing sector while providing employment to scores of citizens. It will be joined with a digital network, ensuring transparency. People can interact with the government using their cell phones. “We are asking people for feedback on our policies”, Modi told business leaders at the USIBC reception.
“I invite you all”, he said. “A businessman is not a donor, there is no charity. It is give-and-take, a win-win situation. You will reap profits; people of India, particularly the youth, will get employment”.
During the course of his address, he referred a number of times to his 14-year tenure as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, before becoming Prime Minister of the nation. Candid to the core, he admitted he has a “Gujarati mind-set. Commerce and business is in our veins”, he said.
Modi’s visit has re-kindled an optimism in bilateral ties. “The best days of US-India relations are coming”, predicted Banga. “What a difference one election can make”, he gushed. “The world is once again turning its gaze to India as it enters this new chapter of growth” under Modi who, he noted, “represents a new generation of leadership”.
Banga disclosed that “USIBC has identified over $41 billion in investment that India could receive from members in this room over the next three years and that is based on a survey of only 20 percent of its membership”.
He praised the Prime Minister for his agenda to educate and empower women, “Your respect for the girl child, for her education and her future, is something that I wholeheartedly endorse for India”, Banga said, to sustained applause from the audience.