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Opinion: Am I the only one asking if the US is turning the screws on India?

Three moves by the American administration and regulators in two weeks may be a coincidence. Or, may be not, writes Business Today Managing Editor Josey Puliyenthuruthel.

After the Khobragade episode , it appeared that things had eased on India's relations with the United States. After all, the world's largest and oldest democracies have a lot to look forward to, despite a history of not seeing eye to eye on geopolitical, strategic, defence or economic issues. India presents a natural ally against a powerful China in the region, India is more amenable to reason in a volatile region, India has English speakers in numbers second only to the US, and India's young present the biggest market for goods and services by population for decades to come.

But, at least three instances in the last two weeks show that all may not be well with the way the US administration, or at least its economic and regulatory arms, views India:

>> The Federation Aviation Authority, or FAA, the US's aviation regulator, downgraded India's ranking to Category 2 from Category 1 on January 31, after a review of India's aviation regulator found its safety processes short of global standards. Other countries are looking closer at Indian carriers after the US decision, which puts India roughly on par with Zimbabwe. The US decision means Indian carriers will freeze their number of flights to the world's largest aviation market (United Airlines suspended a marketing agreement with Jet Airways after the downgrade) besides likely incurring higher insurance costs at renewal. Impact: Potential loss of business for Indians.

>> The Obama administration said on February 10, Monday, it would move the World Trade Organization on India's policy of mandating local content in India solar energy development programme that aims to double its solar capacity by 2017. Such conditions, says the US, make for anti-competitive practices. The US Trade Representative Michael Froman's move for a so-called consultation at the WTO is the first step in a dispute process that could end up in sanctions. India's Trade Secretary said Tuesday it was investigating US policies , too. Sanctions make for a far-off scenario but the direction of the disagreement is there for all to see. Impact: Potential loss of business for Indians.

>> The head of the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA), its drugs regulator, is on her first visit to India - the country with the second most installed base of FDA-approved facilities outside of the US. India with its 370 FDA-approved pharmaceutical factories is generally known as the world's source of cheap, generic drugs. Already the likes of Ranbaxy and Wockhardt are under increasing scrutiny from FDA and have been served import alerts and bans. The visiting FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg had a clear signal for Indian Pharma when she told BT in an interview on Tuesday, February 11: "Compliance doesn't end with approval." Impact: Potential loss of business for Indians.

Linking the US moves to the Khobragade fracas directly may not be accurate. All three moves have been building for a while now - especially, the solar dispute and the FDA's anxious look at Indian drug factories. Still, at this end in New Delhi, it wouldn't be badly off to suspect that there is a method in the way the US is making moves that hurt Indian business.