Event ReportsPublished on Jul 02, 2015
The US is keen on investing in alternate energy sources, especially in Southern India where there is high potential for such innovations, says Samuel F Rothenberg, Political/Economic Officer at the US Consulate-General in Chennai. He said around $1 billion has been earmarked by the US Exim Bank to ensure the implementation of such plans.
US keen on investing in alternate energy sources: US official

US President Barack Obama’s visit to India as the chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations this year was an indication of a paradigm-shift in the bilateral relationship, claimed Mr. Samuel F Rothenberg, Political/Economic Officer at the US Consulate-General for south India at Chennai.

Initiating a discussion on "President Obama’s visit and India-US relations" at the Chennai Chapter of Observer Research Foundation, Mr. Samuel F Rothenberg gave an outline on the agenda that formed the meeting between President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Climate-change, governance and trade were the main focus of the discussions, he said.

He appreciated the "sophistication of Indian minds regarding US politics", especially the complications involved with policy-making process viz the US Congress. He also made a mention of the continuing Indian discourse on President Obama’s reference to ’religious tolerance’ in the country.

Mr Rothenberg spoke in some detail about the joint statement issued at the end of the two leaders’ talks. He cited specifics in the statement on areas where India and the US would jointly act. This array included information and communication technology (ICT), maritime co-operation and counter-terrorism. The speaker made a significant mention about President Obama’ support for India in securing a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

Investing on alternate energy

Mr Rothenberg said that the US is keen on investing in alternate energy sources, especially in Southern India where there is high potential for such innovations. He added that despite alternate energy incurring a "significant cost upfront", such measures would reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. He also pointed out that around $1 billion was earmarked by the US Exim Bank to ensure the implementation of such plans.

He said joint efforts are already underway with the Indian Institute of Science, Benagluru, in clean energy research. He noted that both India and the US are ambitious in pursuing climate-change talks in Paris later this year.

With regard to bilateral trade relations, Mr Rothenberg noted that currently it is of the tune of $100 billion and both sides have made efforts to take it up to $500 billion. It was noted that there have been an increase person-to-person interaction between both the countries, especially through the ISRO-NASA working group. This working group is primarily aimed at joint space research, since both the countries are one of the very few which have managed to send satellites to the Martian orbit. He said this joint working group was formed after of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the US in September 2014.

Defence supplies

The discussion also edged into purchase of defence supplies to India from the US. Mr Rothenberg noted that the Aero India summit in Bengaluru this year is also aimed at attracting investors in defence technology research. He noted that there has been a general growth in defence products purchase. However, it was noted in the discussion that India procures more defence products, especially spare supplies, from Russia merely because of the complexities involved in the legislative process in the US where there are more chances of a deadlock. Mr Obama and Mr Modi also laid emphasis on DTTI (Defence Technology and Trade Initiatives). This would lead to a continued collaboration with additional joint projects in the future.

Among other things, India and the US agreed upon maritime co-operation to find new ways to monitor India’s long coast-line. He also noted that there was also a huge potential for women empowerment and co-operation on this front was also promised in the joint statement. Mr Rothenberg said that the US Department of Commerce has now shifted its focus to promoting investments into the US than otherwise and this can be seen with several industries rolling back their production-line to the US.

One of the important pointers raised during the discussion was on the Totalisation Agreement, which was mooted by the Vajpayee government. The joint statement merely made a mention on both countries pursuing it. This agreement was put forth to avoid double taxation for expatriates who worked in the US. The general consensus in discussion was that the personal bon homie between the two leaders would not automatically translate into policy decisions -- and it is always driven by each country’s own interests.

(This report is prepared by Ramalingam Va, III Year BA (Journalism & Mass Communication), SRM University, Chennai)

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