The strategic partnership between India and the US is the ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) that the world needs, Mastercard CEO and President Ajay Banga has said, asserting that strong ties between the two greatest democracies can make a difference in the world.
“What I want to really see is a time in the world when the two greatest democracies are engaging at every level — socially, culturally, politically and economically, Banga said at the Second Leadership Summit of the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF) here on Thursday.
“I want to see more American students studying in India, not just Indian students studying in America. I want to see more American students going there to serve,” he said.
On the occasion, the CEO was presented with the 2019 Global Excellence Award in recognition of his significant contribution to strengthening economic ties between the US and India by Jarred Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law of US President Donald Trump.
Banga said he wants to see more doctors, more bureaucrats, more artists from both countries, exchanging ideas and practices freely and caring about each other’s opinions.
“In fact there is an Indian word called mahagathbandhan, which means the grand coalition. This, this is the mahagathbandhan, the India-US partnership, the grand coalition that can make a difference in the world,” he said.
“The fact is people like us in business and people like the others here who come from public service together, we can make music out of this whole orchestra and the kind of music that I think would be music to everybody’s ears.”
“So, I think we’ve achieved a lot, but I just feel like there’s a lot more to do and, and I know that there are challenges along the way, but we get paid to try and find a way through those challenges,” Banga said. The USISPF, he said is committed to fostering the most powerful partnership possible.
The presence of Kushner at the summit, he said, shows that the interest in what USISPF is doing in trying to build the right relationship between the US and India is important to everybody in the Trump administration.
“In the past 30 years, India’s GDP has increased more than 900 per cent. In that same timeframe, India has moved from the world’s tenth largest economy, we think this year to the fifth. And in fact, we’re overtaking the UK and France this year. And just a couple of months ago, India in fact mobilised more than 600 million people to participate in the largest democratic exercise in the world,” he said.
“Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the United States stands at a reflection point, one with a long history of leadership as the world’s largest economy and the world’s second largest democracy, but also the oldest democracy,” he said.
“The question in my mind right now is what these two great countries can achieve together. Hence the strategic partnership,” Banga said.
The two countries were born to be together because of their shared beliefs in democracy, inequality in growth.
“But the fact is we share belief in the tremendous strength of partnership that the totality is much more interesting because it’s exponentially greater when you add the sum of the parts,” he said, adding that the two countries could achieve so much more as partners.
“Our job now is to try to stack that deck in favour of that partnership and to do that by ramping up reforms, by easing legacy regulations,” he said.
Frankly in India it’s about land, labour and capital. That’s kind of where India’s opportunity is, he asserted.
And here in the United States, things like immigration reform that help India assess where it wants to do in terms of sending the quality of people and the quality of openness that it wants from the US economy, he said. There are things to do on both sides, Banga said.
“But the fact is easing these legacy regulations, creating level playing field, working together with transparency… that to me is where our future could be. That’s how we can unlock foreign and domestic investment and portfolio more people into the workforce,” Banga said.