Shale Gas, defence and immigration bills top Narendra Modi’s agenda for upcoming US visit

The impending visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly and also to meet US President Barack Obama will be a significant step to set the tone and outcomes of US-India relations. The importance of this visit lies in the fact that both parties are striving to draw a fresh first sketch on a blank-slate with a new prime minister at the helm in New Delhi. While officials are planning to generate as much value out of Modi’s trip to New York and Washington, DC, it is also time to create newer values in the bilateral relation. This can be possible if the prime minister engages with a wider audience in the US. Sources have revealed the detailed itinerary of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US. Modi arrives in New York for the UN General Assembly on September 26 and addresses the multilateral body the next day. The big show, however, is the Indian community function at Madison Square Gardens on September 28 with key aide Bharat Lal and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav already on the job in New York to get the NRI organisations together. However, the power show begins on September 29 with PM Modi meeting former first couple Bill and Hillary Clinton and South Carolina governor Nikki Randhawa Haley. He would also hold one-to-one meetings with James McNerney, chairman, Boeing Corporation; Jeffrey Immelt, chairman, GE, Virginia Rommety, chairman, IBM, Laurence Fink, chairman, Blackrock and Lloyd Fink, chairman, Goldman Sachs. The show does not end here with PM Modi hosting a luncheon for 10-11 chief executive officers of multinational companies like Pepsi, Abbot Pharma, Lockheed Martin, Master Card. Top government sources said that PM Modi will attend a private dinner hosted by President Obama in Washington to discuss bilateral ties including in nuclear and defence areas. However, the key bilateral meeting is on September 30 with vice-president Joe Biden and secretary of state John Kerry hosting a luncheon for the visiting PM. Shale Gas Exploration of unconventional resources such as shale gas in India would be one of the top agendas for discussion when Prime Minister NarendraModi visits the US later this month. The US has emerged as the world’s leading producer of shale gas and energy-deficit India, which has taken preliminary steps towards mining such hydrocarbon, needs technology to drive exploration. Also, the two sides are expected to talk about export of shale gas to India, officials privy to the development told FE. Shale gas has emerged as a new and clean source of energy after its exploitation in US over the past one decade. Now, companies in Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia are working towards finding ways for economic exploration of the gas. According to preliminary reports, India has huge shale deposits in several coastal states, Assam, Gujarat and Rajasthan, among others. But, no work has been done to verify the exact shale potential in India. Visa/Immigration bill India and US will deliberate on a host of issues, including visa restrictions, movement of professionals and greater market access, during the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister NarendraModi to America. The country has also raised concerns over the visa restrictions and US Immigration Bill. The United States Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernisation Bill, 2013 seeks to deny access to visas or place additional visa related restrictions including higher fees. India had already conveyed that these steps are not only discriminatory but also creates an unequal playing field for Indian IT companies. The Bill has not yet been enacted. Make in India, invest in India. For Modi it can be an opportunity to advance his economic agenda. Modi's just completed political campaign, based on promises to the Indian business community, that he would bring more foreign investment into India and that there would be more investment in infrastructure projects. It is expected that the same economic agreements, which resulted from Modi's recent summit with Japan's Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, will be discussed in Washington. Japan agreed to increase its investment in India and agreed to provide loans for infrastructure projects. It is anticipated that American investments in India and financing for large projects will be on Modi's agenda at the meeting. Defence India and US have had several defence deals in the past. India's import of weapons from US since 2007-8 has amounted to over $10 billion. In the last three years, for instance, India has imported Rs83,458 crore worth of weapons, out of which Rs32,615 crore was from the US, while Russia supplied Rs25,364 crore, France Rs12,407 crore and Israel Rs3,389 crore. In a recent visit of Chuck Hagel, US Defence Secretary, decisions have been made to revive the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) and also work towards the extension of 10-year Indian-Defence frame work. Hagel met Modi, who stressed the importance of "technology transfer" and said India was keen to make further progress in bilateral ties. This included defence manufacturing in India. Both agreed to go in for co-development and co-production of weapon systems. No doubt, these would be raised again in the discussions between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi. During the meeting that Hagel had with his counterpart Arun Jaitley, it was brought to his notice that FDI cap has been increased to 49% from 26%. However, there is the fear that US is not a reliable long term and high end defence supplier, given its spur of the moment reactions for imposing sanctions and stringent export control laws. India would be glad to work with the US, if such points can be settled amicably. Prime Minister Modi is likely to raise the issue of bringing up ground realities in asking for US support in restructuring global institutions like the UN Security Council and the International Monetary Fund (UNSC and IMF). In the case of UN Security Council, there is no longer any justification for India to be kept out; in fact, now that European Union is a reality, it would be unfair for both UK and France to have the membership of this august body. European Union should have one and it is up to them to nominate any member of the Union to be the permanent member in the Security Council.

When UNSC is restructured, it may have a total of five or seven members and, in such an event, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa could be other suitable candidates. No doubt, during his meeting with President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Modi would have raised these issues. Doubtless, he will take up the matter with President Obama so that this matter can be resolved permanently.


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