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"World is watching... It is a big deal," US India business body chief ahead of PM Modi's visit
Washington: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US visit, the US-India Business Council (USIBC) president Atul Keshap said the entire US is excited about the Indian leader's visit and that both New Delhi and Washington DC can be "arsenals of democracy in the Eastern and Western hemispheres" which would ensure deterring any potential conflict.
"The whole country and city are excited and buzzing here at the chamber and USIBC and we're buzzing about it. We're working night and day on our own ideas summit on June 12 and 13th and also on whatever happens on the borders of the state visit. So I think both governments are putting full effort in we're in constant contact with both governments and I applaud them. I think they're focusing on the important thing, and I wish them great success," Keshap told ANI. "This is only the third State visit by an Indian visitor and the Indian leader to the United States in all of the history of our relationship...This is a really big deal in the way that the United States treats, honour visitors diplomatically. States visits are reserved for our closest friends," he added.
Responding to reports that the Biden administration is set to approve a potential multi-million government-to-government deal, to permit General Electric (GE) to manufacture fighter jet engines in India during PM Modi's June 21-24 US visit, Keshap said the two governments are working towards taking their defence and technology relationship to the next level.
"Well, let's see what happens. Let's see what the two governments can arrange. I know that they're working very hard. They are deeply invested in ensuring that we can take our defence and technology relationship to the next level. The world is watching. This is only the third State visit from India to the United States. It is a big deal. A big honour for the government and people in India Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming here," the former US envoy to India told ANI.
India is evaluating proposals from American and French firms for its Made in India aircraft including the LCA Mark 2 and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft. The evaluation of the proposals from both sides is going on. The key factors for these proposals would be the extent of the transfer of technology and pricing, government officials earlier told ANI.
Speaking about the US-India ties in the defence sector, Keshap said a lot has been achieved over the past 20 years but "there's so much more we can do to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific."
The USIBC chief said, "I think a lot has been achieved over the past 20 years. If you look at the record between our two countries of how much we do together. But there's so much more we can do to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. We already have our Chiefs of Defence staff now discussing things not only bilaterally, but in a Quad context. I think that's very helpful. There's obviously a lot of talk about potential fighter engine collaboration that may come out of this summit."
Keshap highlighted that the USIBC has an Aerospace and defence committee, which will host the Indus X that is being organised by the Ministry of Defence in India and the Department of Defence in the United States to intensify collaboration between the defence industries in both our countries.
"And I think that is the need of the hour. If you look at the Pandemic and the lessons it has taught us, and you look at recent geostrategic events, the free world needs to ensure a very robust deterrence. India and the United States can be the arsenals of democracy in the Eastern and Western hemispheres, ensuring strength, and through strength, we deter any potential conflict," he said.
Meanwhile, the United States Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin III will embark on a four-nation trip including India from next week, according to an official statement released by the US Department of Defence. This visit,it said, provides an opportunity to further deepen the "US-India Major Defence Partnership as ties between the two countries enter a new and exciting chapter."
While speaking to ANI, Keshap highlighted the initiative on critical and emerging technologies that are being undertaken between the two countries, which he termed "as important as the nuclear deal". "It is as consequential strategically as the nuclear deal," he said. During his US visit earlier this year in February, NSA Ajit Doval had stressed for enhancing cooperation in defence, space, cybersecurity, undersea and innovative intelligence.
According to US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) statement since the seminal nuclear deal, the US-India defence cooperation has only improved over the years. The February meeting of Doval with board members of USISPF underscored US defence companies' commitment to producing military hardware under the Government of India's AtmanirbharBharat (Self-Reliant) initiative and, on the software side, on advanced technologies in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI).
Responding to the question about efforts made by US regarding the upcoming visit of PM Modi, Atul Keshap said, "Let's keep in mind that for the last 25 years our two countries have been on a path of strategic, economic and now technological convergence."
In response to a question regarding the upcoming summit chamber, he said, "So we have our India ideas summit on June 12 and 13. We have a whole host of US officials coming to talk to our board, our sponsors and our 200-plus member companies. Those 200 companies represent trillions of dollars. They are leaders in innovation in managerial excellence, ethical comportment, and environmental standards. They have helped build the modern world, the prosperity we all enjoy, especially technology. So we're bringing all of them together for our angles, just like we did in September in New Delhi last year."
"For Prime Minister Modi's visit, we want to make sure that the world knows about all of the positive energy that is happening in the US India relationship between our peoples, between governments, between our corporate institutions, and between all of the people who innovate," Keshap said.
PM Modi is scheduled on go on a visit to the US on June 22 following an invitation from President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden.
The White House recently said the visit of Prime Minister Modi to the US will be an opportunity to reaffirm the deep, close partnership between US and India. The White House Press Secretary said the visit would also strengthen US-India shared commitment to a free, open, prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific and shared resolve to evaluate strategic technology partnership, including in defence, clean energy and space. (ANI)