Indian biz leaders build bridges with Obama team

March 19th, 2009 - 8:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 19 (IANS) A group of Indian business leaders is in town to build bridges with the new Barack Obama administration and outline the opportunities as also the concerns to overcome in raising India-US commercial ties to a new level.

Led by Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Mittal, the high level delegation from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), has held a series of meetings with top administration officials, business leaders as also thought leaders.

Among those the team has met are President Obama’s top economic advisor Lawrence Summers, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, and his deputy national security advisor.

The group has also met World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg.

Among the issues raised by the Indian corporate leadership were the proposed restrictions on employment of H-1B visa holders under the stimulus bill, but they were assured that a serious rollback was unlikely unless the unemployment rate in the US plummets drastically.

The CII delegation includes Tarun Das, chief mentor CII; C.K. Birla, Hindustan Motors Ltd Chairman; Shobana Kamineni, Executive Director, Apollo Hospitals Group; Pawan Munjal, Managing Director and CEO Hero Honda Motors; Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman Hero Corporate Service Limited; and Vijay Thadani, chief executive officer NIIT Limited.

Administration officials also told the business leaders that America’s relations with China would not be at the cost of India. “China and India are seen as two engines of growth, and should continue to grow,” Mittal told reporters.

“America is very clear that they have to keep their engagement with China very strong, but the message (to us) is do not worry, it is not at the cost of India,” he said.

“The relationship with India on a bilateral basis would be strengthened as we go forward,” Mittal said. “Overall, we are very happy with the meetings.”

The administration officials also appreciated the “responsible” role played by the Indian government in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks orchestrated by Pakistan based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and expressed a willingness to engage with India to build a partnership to make the whole region safer.

Earlier Tuesday, they met former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Harold McGraw, chairman and CEO of the McGraw-Hill Companies, a leading global information services provider, and thought leaders like former US ambassador to India, Richard Celeste and Karl Inderfurth, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs under President Bill Clinton.

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