India, US pledge to improve ties, put it in writing

Written by fe Bureau | Agencies | New Delhi/Washington | Updated: Oct 1 2014, 06:36am hrs
ModiUS President Barack Obama welcomes Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the dinner hosted in his honour at the White House, in Washington DC, on Monday evening.
India and the US on Tuesday vowed to re-infuse vigour and warmth to their long-standing ties and go beyond modest and conventional goals despite a mild set back to their relations after last years incident involving an Indian diplomat stationed in the US and a recent stand-off at the World Trade Organisation.

In a joint vision statement issued on Monday night, the two countries said they will support an open and inclusive rules-based global order where India will assume greater multilateral responsibility including in a reformed United Nations Security Council. On Tuesday, this was followed by a joint piece penned by US President Barack Obama and visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi where the two envisaged a harmony between Indias ambitious development agenda and the US remaining as the global growth engine.

The two leaders also said that when they meet later in the day in Washington, they would discuss ways to boost manufacturing and expand affordable renewable energy, while sustainably securing the future of our common environment.

While the US concerns over Indias restrictive intellectual property rights regime and below-potential benefits coming to it from the two countries civil nuclear cooperation agreement persisted, in the joint editorial published in the Washington Post, the two leaders were effusive: This will be an agenda that enables us to find mutually rewarding ways to expand our collaboration in trade, investment and technology that harmonize with Indias ambitious development agenda, while sustaining the United as the global engine of growth, they wrote.

Meanwhile, the US has approved construction of a liquefied natural gas project that will ship the fuel to India. US regulators gave the final approval on Monday for Dominion Resources to build the east coasts first natural gas liquefaction plant at its Cove Point site on the Chesapeake Bay. Indias state-owned gas utility GAIL India has taken 40% of the projects capacity to liquefy 5.75 million tonnes a year of natural gas for export in ships. The $3.8-billion project is likely to be completed in June 2017. The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the permit for the Cove Point terminal in Maryland, Dominion Resources said in a statement.

Terming the Indo-US relationship as robust, reliable and enduring, Modi and Obama said the true potential of the ties was yet to be fully realised and the advent of a new government in India was a natural opportunity to broaden and deepen ties. They said as global partners, they are committed to enhancing our homeland security by sharing intelligence, through counter-terrorism and law-enforcement cooperation, while we jointly work to maintain freedom of navigation and lawful commerce across the seas.

Our relationship involves more bilateral collaboration than ever before not just at the federal level but also at the state and local levels, between our two militaries, private sectors and civil society, they said.

At the WTO ministerial in Geneva in July, India had thwarted the signing of the protocol for the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) aimed at easing customs rules to add significant incremental growth to world trade. India steadfastly maintained that TFA protocol could not be ratified unless it saw progress on the issue of public stockholding of food security.

US-based big pharma companies have been critical of India's patenting regime as it made patenting of incremental inventions difficult. Section 3(d) of India's Patents Act, the US alleges, serves as an extra filter beyond the TRIPS criteria of patentability as it vests discretionary powers with patent controllers to decide whether incremental inventions substantially improved the efficacy of a (known) drug so as to be patented. The US is also concerned about pharma majors being jittery about submitting their test and other data on new drug candidates with the Indian drug authorities given that these could be potentially leaked, leading to their unfair commercial use by third parties.

Shortly before Modi departed for the US last Thursday, he had launched Make in India worldwide campaign, aimed at catapulting India into the centre stage of global manufacturing. The launch of the grand campaign was at a time when Indias already under-performing manufacturing sector, accounting for just 16% of GDP, is posting a negative growth rate (the sector had contracted 0.7% in FY14 and shrank 1.2% in the April-June quarter of 2014-15).