Obama Visit: Let us aim for singles instead of sixes!

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The upcoming visit of US President Obama as the chief guest for the Republic Day parade has created a lot of hype and expectations on both sides. It also has shown a very positive light as to the statesmanship of of Prime Minister Modi and also the value that President Obama attaches to this relationship. A year ago this would have been inconceivable as the PM did not even have a visa to visit the US but since his becoming the Prime Minister he has reached out to the US in a manner that puts aside any thought about his holding grudges. President Obama facing a stronger Republican opposition has decided that ISIS, Russia, Israel-Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq are all going to be challenges that are going to live beyond his Presidency and thus he should look for small gains and the US India relationship is the one that has no downside and also has the Republicans support.

Barrack Obama will be the first US President to take salute from Indian troops at Rajpath, creating a history sorts. This will be Obama’s second visit to India; earlier the US President had visited India during his first term in the Oval office, in 2010 when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister.  Like all presidential visits, this will be extensively covered by all world media to the point of exhaustion. So what can we accept on this visit? There are many issues on the agenda, the most important ones in the long run are defense, climate change, bilateral trade, intellectual property rights and civil nuclear agreement.

defenceDefense: The understanding on strategic framework for defense, which was signed earlier, expires this year. It is expected that a new framework will be signed along with Defense Technology Trade Initiative (DTTI). Unite States has become the biggest supplier of arms to India providing C-130, C-17 and P-80 aircraft and heavy lift, attack and VIP helicopters. Under the DTTI, several projects for joint development and production are expected to be initiated.

Climate Change: The issue of climate change is of great concern to both the nations. USA is keen to have India aboard the climate convention summit, which is to be held in Paris at the end of this year.

tradeTrade: On the bilateral trade front negotiations are on to revive the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). USA is trying to push for early conclusion of BIT to protect Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) of its companies. The big problem here is the pharmaceutical sector. Drug companies in both countries have locked horns over the IPR issues. US Food and Drugs Administration blames Indian Pharmaceuticals for manufacturing patented products in violation of IPRs, when they manufacture affordable generic medicines of patented drugs. On the other hand US based drug companies have been denied patents by India for their drugs. An outcome on this issue is a possibility in this trip of Obama.

passCounter terror and cyber security: which are co related in these times of terror, would be another important factor that the two countries need to share a dialogue on and find ways to do it together. Both sides are working to announce closer co-operation on counter terror and fortifying of cyber security, especially on terror funding. The leaders are also expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan post US withdrawal.

nuclearCivil Nuclear Agreement: Another issue to watch is of nuclear. While USA facilitated the wavier for India at Nuclear Supply Group (NSG) for nuclear trade India is yet to open its door for US Nuclear companies to invest in India. The issue of liability has been very challenging for both parties to agree on. There might be a compromise on its way, which might include creating an insurance pool, and part of the liability being guaranteed by India.

Even though this trip will be big on symbolism, there is still a lot of substance that can be covered during this visit. Sometimes it is better to go for singles than a six (using a cricket metaphor). While the headlines have been about:

  • Civil Nuclear Agreement
  • Climate Change
  • Defense Manufacturing
  • Terror

There are some other key small wins that can be done by a President who has a hostile legislature in his last 2 years in power and a Prime Minister with immense political capital:

  • Waiver to India for buying LNG from the US: US LNG is the cheapest and plentiful. However since India does not have a FTA it has to go through a very cumbersome process that takes years for approval. President Obama could give India a waiver to cut through the red tape.
  • Setting up a US India Cyber Security Forum: The Sony attack, ISIS taking down the US Central Command Social media accounts show that the US with all its technological might is not immune to cyber attacks. The same applies to Indian security apparatus. The two countries should setup a joint task force and forum to promote exchange but incubate technologies and companies that can be a shield on these attacks
  • US India STEM teachers program: The US has over 100,000 STEM teachers shortage and the Prime Minister has always talked about exporting teachers. This could be an arrangement where these teachers have to teach in US inner cities and assist them with their Science, Technology and Math skills

These are all very doable items and not controversial and will get Republican support in the US Congress.

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Before “Make In India” there should be “Safe in India”

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PM Modi needs to shore up women’s safety issues before inviting MNC’s

I applaud PM Modi in his quest to shore up the manufacturing base of India through his “Make in India” campaign. He has been across the world, pitching India as great manufacturing destination and at the same time introducing investor friendly policies.

However there is a flip side to the “Make in India” Campaign. Here we talk about “Safe in India”. We talk about, how safe, women are in India. It has been a general perception for people from abroad, relating to safety of women in India. Whether you travel by bus, walk down the streets or neighborhoods or the once thought of safe mode of transport for women, hire a cabs have also contributed to this cog in the wheel. Safety of women have always been a top of the mind question I get from people who have never been to India.

Here we pause to ask. How does it matter? It matters because, multinationals who invest in India, have a brand and image to protect apart from legal issues to worry about. Hence they would be keen on investing in a place where safety of their employees would not be compromised. Recently, there has been a big drumbeat by the prime minister about economic reforms, foreign investment etc. But then what good it is, if it’s not backed by good governance, administration, safety for women & security. These are must haves for FDIs to make their presence comfortable in India.

A recently concluded survey of the most dangerous cities for women, saw New Delhi coveting the fourth place.

For Investors to be comfortable, the mindset of People, Society, Police and Justice Delivery mechanism needs to be changed. India needs to portray itself as a safe haven for women.

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9 nominees of Modi’s Garbage Bucket Challenge have total twitter following of over 20 million

modi-clean

Ever imagined a trend where an ‘Indian’ wielding a broom in his hand would become the poster boy of a campaign for a cleanliness drive. A Prime Minister, who came to power to eradicate the ‘Dirt’ of Corruption from the Indian Politics, has also taken up the humongous task by heralding ‘Clean Revolution’ in India.

Bringing everyone on the same platform for the ‘Clean India’ Campaign requires social outreach rather than a political one. This Prime Minister is one of the most digital and media savvy leaders in the world. He has taken a page out of the Ice Bucket challenge and nominated 9 Indian celebrities to create awareness among Indian followers and spread the message of ‘Cleanliness’. His choice has been very interesting, ensuring that the campaign reaches out to as many Indians as possible through the mass fan following of the nine celebrities that he has nominated. It is no coincidence that they all have a huge social media following. Smartphone apps, social media networks and digital media are abuzz with the ‘Clean India’ campaign and that is what the PM wanted.

With the trend of posting a selfie, don’t be surprised if you see a few pictures of youths wielding brooms. Recreating the magic of Sachin Tendulkar, Modi has tried to bring the Master Blaster into the public community by nominating the most recent ‘Bharat Ratna’ to take up this daunting challenge. It is the same with the other nominated celebrities who have been equally active. Out of the 125 crore Indians, Modi has successfully managed to rope in the youth brigade into the drive through these carefully chosen nominees. As the campaign spreads its wings, more celebrities are volunteering to project awareness and ensure that the mission stays alive. Modi’s vision to see a ‘Clean India’ by 2019 has been successfully crafted, by using the social media, the presence of celebrities and thereby engaging the youth of India.  And, that is really a clever move!

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@PMO: Declare Sainik Diwas as a Public Holiday!

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Today is Veterans Day in the USA and it is a public holiday, which is recognized, by the President and other leaders around the country by paying their respects to the sacrifices of approx. 19.6 million Veterans (Source: U.S. Census bureau).  The US has fought twenty-one wars since the end of World War I and it is still engaged in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and has troops stationed in South Korea and other regions. Which other country comes to mind that has been engaged in so many conflicts and is surrounded by two nuclear armed neighbors with which it has fought wars. India ranks 3rd amongst the largest armies in the World and its Veterans that number around 1,325,000. While most nations across the world celebrate Veterans Day as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day, India too will have her own celebration for the veteran soldiers.

This Prime Minister is working hard to bring national pride back to India and I admire his initiative to honor the sacrifices of the founding fathers like Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. However the time has come for the Prime Minister to designate one day where its leaders remember to honor the ones who lay down their lives for the freedom that its people enjoy. This will bring honor to the armed forces and pride in people joining the armed forces as a good career choice. It will also restore pride and honor to the families of the ones who make sacrifices to protect the harsh terrains in India.

India has started celebrating holidays popular in the US like Valentine’s Day, Halloween etc, that were created primarily to prop up retailers in the US but this is one holiday that is truly a worthy where the PM can lead by example. Just like the Swachh Bharat campaign, celebrating the Sainik Diwas on similar lines as Veterans Day, can project the importance of the armed personnel in making India what it is today.

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