The Huffington Post
By Arun M. Kumar
A re-energized commitment to move both countries forward, together.
That is what President Obama, leader of the world’s oldest democracy, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the world’s largest democracy, collectively committed to after their meeting last month.
I say re-energized commitment because we are already committed to each other, particularly economically. India’s economic growth has created a rising market for our exports, which creates jobs here at home.
But a major impediment to India’s growth has been poor infrastructure, from inadequate and unreliable power to outdated and slow transportation.
That is why infrastructure is one of Prime Minister Modi’s top priorities. India is expected to invest as much as $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over the next five years in a variety of areas. These range from power — including clean energy — to rail freight, airports, ports and water and sanitation works.
U.S. companies with their world-leading technologies and services can play a major role in creating modern infrastructure in India.
But few American companies have successfully undertaken infrastructure projects in India. Many firms are discouraged by the continued market challenges within India’s taxation, land acquisition and the procurement processes.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration — which is charged with promoting trade and investment — will play a direct role in improving the situation; notably through two initiatives to bridge the gap between India’s infrastructure needs and the capability of U.S. industry.
One is the Infrastructure Collaboration Platform (ICP), which will be co-chaired by ITA and the Indian Ministry of Finance. This government-to- government (G-to-G) platform will identify India’s critical infrastructure needs, while enabling both governments to focus on resolving market access challenges through focused dialogues. This will enable U.S. industry to sell its technologies and services across India.
ICP presents a significant opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to participate in India’s high-growth plans. SMEs will have a chance to participate in the global supply chain by learning of opportunities earlier, assessing their capabilities and interest and deciding whether to partner with larger U.S. firms as they bid for new Indian government contracts.
A direct outcome of the ICP is India’s offer to the U.S. industry to be a lead partner in developing “smart cities” in Ajmer (Rajasthan), Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) and Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh).
And ITA is playing a direct role in facilitating U.S. industry involvement in India’s Smart Cities program.
Smart cities — which leverage information, communication and sustainable physical technologies to optimize quality of life at reduced costs and increased efficiencies — present high-value opportunities for American companies, which have competitive advantages with their advanced products and services.
Designing and/or retrofitting new and existing cities require major technological and physical infrastructure deployment. This speaks directly to the singular tools and knowhow that U.S. businesses possess. Smart city development presents enormous export opportunities for U.S. businesses.
So connecting Indian need to U.S. capability will not only mean improving people’s lives. It also means spurring growth and jobs in the United States.
ITA will work with U.S. industry to facilitate a focused approach for developing these smart cities. We will work actively to align the needs of India’s city planners with American technology and services.
This is the moment for hope both in India, and in the U.S.-India relationship. Now is the time for focused action toward realizing such hope. The United States government, citizens and industry all look for a sustained positive business and political climate in India. Both governments have an abundant responsibility to nurture this newfound energy into a long-term partnership founded on shared economic imperatives for mutual job growth.
And both the U.S. and Indian communities can count on ITA and its U.S. government agency partners to support our industry partners.
Together, we can move forward.