Washington DC: Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent Day One of his three-day US tour in meeting the industry titans and the Indian community in Virginia. At a round-table of 21 CEOs, he spoke of India's business-friendly face, highlighting reforms like the Goods and Services Tax or GST that would untangle a complex jumble of central and state taxes. Later, interacting with the expat Indians, he spoke of his government's "stain-free" reputation and growing international clout. "Not one country questioned India's surgical strikes (on terror launch-pads across the Line of Control)," he said.
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In a signed article in Wall Street Journal, PM Modi also pitched the Goods and Services Tax to American business. He said bilateral trade, which is to the tune of $115 billion a year, is poised for a "multi-fold increase".
"Indian companies are adding value to the manufacturing and services sectors in the U.S., with total investments of approximately $15 billion and a presence in more than 35 states, including in the Rust Belt. American companies have likewise fueled their global growth by investing more than $20 billion in India," he wrote.
At the meeting with the CEOs, PM Modi said, "The whole world is looking at India... India's growth presents a win-win partnership for India and US both". His government, he added, has introduced 7,000 reforms, including the GST, to increase the ease of doing business in India.
PM Modi heard the executives, whose chief concerns were said to include the economic scenario in India post demonetisation, the question of jobs and intellectual property rights. The list of those who attended read like a who's who of American industry and included Google's Sundar Pichai, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Apple's Tim Cook and Mastercard's Ajay Banga.
PM Modi later attended a reception at a hotel in McLean, where he addressed around 700 members of the Indian community. He underscored the corruption-free credentials of his administration, saying, "In three years, there has not been one stain on my government. Indians detest corruption."
The Prime Minister also included generous praise for Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, popular for her prompt Twitter-driven interventions. "It is now well known in India, anyone in trouble tweets to Sushma ji, she promptly replies and the government takes action," he said.
Later today, PM Modi will meet President Donald Trump in a series of bilaterals in which the two nations will seek to fortify and give direction to ties which are being tested due several economic and immigration agendas of the Republican government. President Trump has called PM Modi a "true friend" with whom he had "important strategic issues to discuss".
The two leaders will spend around five hours together -- beginning with a bilateral discussion, delegation-level talks, followed by a reception and a working dinner. Defence cooperation, boosting economic ties, combating terrorism and security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region are among the key issues likely to be discussed.
Climate change, another point of friction, is expected to be a key part of the discussion. Earlier this month, while pulling US out of the Paris climate accord, President Trump had accused India of seeking to profit from it, drawing a sharp reaction from New Delhi. The US has said it will "seek common ground" on the issue.
President Trump's review of the H-1B visa programme, a key concern for India, is not expected to figure in the talks. After the talks, PM Modi and President Trump will deliver a joint statement along with individual statements. There will be no question answer session, "as preferred by both leaders", a White House official has said.