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Modi’s US Visit: More Rhetoric, Little Resonance ?

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi in a group photograph with the dancers, who performed at the Community Reception, at Dublin, Ireland on September 23, 2015.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States has become an annual pilgrimage to the United Nations’ Headquarters and meet other heads of state with the TV crew in toe to beam the visuals back home but from diplomacy point of view, little is expected from the visit to New York.

The inevitable side visit to California to woo tech giants, however, holds promise but during his visit to Facebook Townhall, the Indian Prime Minister may face disquieting questions.

Just before his trip, India approved $2.5 billion deal to purchase 37 Apache and Chinook helicopters from Boeing, which may soften his handshake with US President Barack Obama this year.

But will it please the Silicon Valley which is bracing for a townhall at Facebook headquarters with Mark Zuckerberg? Euphoria apart, the concrete outcome of such personal touch diplomacy yields little. More than the townhall, the drop-by visit of Apple CEO Tim Cook should give Modi an opportunity to announce something major to make the trip remarkable this year.

While the glorious Madison Square rally last year in New York may be missing this year, Modi should know that optimism is lacking in his second visit to the US from either side.

Sluggish economy back home beset with dwindling American IT projects make it an eye-opener for Indian strategists to look elsewhere for deals than merely pointing a finger at China and shirk the responsibility of job creations in both countries.

Unless Modi’s government shows signs of integrating Indian economy with the global demands of the US and Europe, it is unlikely to bear fruit. But Modi cannot unilaterally hold hope for a better deal.

As the historic 2007 Nuclear Deal has run into problems over GE Chairman Jeff Immelt’s recent reluctance to invest in India citing the nuclear accident liability law, any subversion may attract criticism back home. Instead, Modi may look at Sun and seek solar energy cooperation this time, especially seeking investments for his ambitious plan to build 100 GW of solar capacity in 7 years.

Besides, his first visit to Silicon Valley may give Modi a taste of what the IT sector is looking for in India how far it fits into his flagship “Make In India” program. Modi, the ambassador, will have to make a hard bargaining this time in his US visit.


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