Let's deal, Mr President

Business Today Desk        Print Edition: Nov 14, 2010

US-India business has had a curious history decoupled from the state of diplomatic relations between Washington and New Delhi. Even in the aftermath of Indian nuclear tests in 1998 when relations between the two were at their coolest in a post-Cold War world, business boomed and peaked with Indian tech firms helping out top US corporations deal with the Y2K computer bug.

A decade later, the contours of the relations have changed dramatically: Washington has successfully paved the way for India's entry into a closed door club with access to nuclear energy technologies and fuel. Most leading US businesses have opened shop here - both as a place to sell their wares as also a base for intellectual resources - and consider India their gateway into other emerging markets.

Still, observers of India-US business relations don't expect much by way of milestones from President Barack Obama's India visit in the first week of November. Democrat administrations have delivered few goodies to India and with the world's No. 1 economy faced with unemployment rates of 9.6 per cent, little tangible is expected from the Obama visit.

A lot is in play, though: lifting of "dual-use" restrictions that could lay foundations for the world's biggest nuclear energy market, a $5 billion military transport aircraft deal, cooperation in universitylevel education and research, irritants around outsourcing, and financial reforms. Some of these will get sealed when Obama tours India and, surely, some won't. Turn the page for deep dives by four Business Today writers and one expert columnist into the new opportunities before US-India businesses, and a reality check on how a backlash against outsourcing could actually hurt the American economy.

New Bonhomie

The first visit by President Obama to India could augur well for US-India trade. Some of the deals and issues that will be on the table during the Obama trip, all of which may not be signed:

  • Nuclear technology "dual use" restrictions may be lifted, paving the way for hundreds of technologies denied to India under US laws so far
  • Boeing's F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed-Martin with its F-16IN Super Viper are in the running for the 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircraft order worth over Rs 45,000 crore
  • Boeing and Sikorsky are both in the running for heavy-lift and attack helicopter deals
  • US wants India to sign logistics sharing and communications interoperability pacts, but the Indians are cool to it
  • A Rs 20,000-crore deal for 10 Boeing C-17 heavy-lift aircraft to replace the ageing Ilyushin-76 planes

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