WASHINGTON, D.C.—India’s new Ambassador to the U.S., Taranjit Singh Sandhu, whose credentialing ceremony by President Trump at the White House was put on a fast track to enable him to participate in Trump’s visit to India on Feb. 24-25, has described the strategic partnership between India and the U.S. as the “most transformational” relationship in the 21st century.
He also predicted that Trump’s visit to India would be a catalyst to “solidify the partnership across all spheres.”
At a reception hosted in his honor by the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) on Feb. 13, Sandhu told representatives of America Inc., "Today, the U.S.-India relationship, is being seen, as the most transformational relationship of our times.”
"The relationship has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the United States. This is an affirmation of our shared values, of our common commitment to democracy and pluralism,” he added.
Sandhu recalled that “during my earlier stint as DCM (Deputy Chief of Mission), I was fortunate to witness, Prime Minister Modi's address, to the joint session of the Congress, in 2016,” where he had said that “our relationship was primed, for a momentous future, that we have overcome, the ‘hesitations of history.’”
“Since then, we have seen that our relationship has evolved into, a global strategic partnership. We are coordinating and co-operating, in multiple spheres--in counter-terrorism, defense, Indo-Pacific, science and technology, trade and investment,” he said.
Sandhu acknowledged that “I consider myself fortunate, to have arrived in the United States, as Ambassador at a time of exciting possibilities. Within 10 days, we will witness the historic visit of President of United States to India. This visit will help, to solidify our partnership, across all spheres.”
He said that the India-U.S. economic partnership “has grown from strength-to-strength, over the years,” with bilateral trade galloping at 10 percent annually and had reached $160 billion in 2019.”
“Two-way investment between India and U.S. reached $60 billion in 2018, and he more than 2,000 U.S. companies have a presence in India. Over 200 Indian companies have invested $18 billion in the U.S. creating more than 100,000 direct jobs," he added.
Sandhu said, “We have jumped on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index,” and also pointed out, “We are a young country of over 800 million youth, who are aspirational and dream big.”
The envoy also noted that he had arrived in Washington, D.C. “at a time, when India is surging ahead on reforms. The GST, was a major reform, aimed to unify the Indian market. The latest budget, which has been tabled in the Parliament, by the Finance Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) has announced incentives to boost participation by foreign portfolio investors.”
Sandhu then rattled off a list of incentives “for sovereign wealth funds,” and said that “an Investment Clearance Cell is envisaged, to provide end-to-end facilitation for foreign investors.”
“There are opportunities for U.S. companies through reduction in duties on a number of items--fuel oil, petroleum coke, plastic, liquid crystal polymers, platinum, and microphone parts.”
Sandhu declared that “ours is a partnership between two peoples, and not just two governments,” and said that “the strong and enduring bonds between the American and Indian people has been the foundation of our relationship.”
And, then again, referring to Trump’s visit, predicted, “During the forthcoming visit of the President of the United States to India, you will witness, the warmth of Indian people for the United States.”
Sandhu also said that “business and culture are the two pillars capable of uniting people across the world. Business is about money, but not just about money. It is also about risk, expectation, adventure, and passion.”
And, in that regard, added, “For the passion that you bring to India-U.S. relationship, I have tremendous faith in the USIBC as a group, and I look forward, to working together with all of you, in this shared passion for the India-US relationship.” “Business, industry, academia, think tanks, civil society, and media all play an important role in building India-US relationship,” Sandhu said, and added, “It is in this context that USIBC is an important player as a strong bridge-builder, and a force multiplier, but most importantly as a mirror that reflects the expectations of the people.”
Thus, he reiterated that “USIBC's role remains integral to the success of both governments.”
Sandhu also lavished praise on USIBC president Nisha Desai Biswal, saying that under her helm, the organization with over 350 members, including scores of Fortune 500 companies doing business in India, “has become a prominent powerhouse in the India-U.S. policy sphere.”
"She is a close friend, and true partner for India - one whom I have had the pleasure to have worked closely with from the Hill to Foggy Bottom," he said.
Biswal is an erstwhile Congressional staffer and during Sandhu’s first stint in the U.S. as a political counselor at the Indian embassy interacted closely with her, and then as DCM with Biswal again, who at the time, in the second term of the Obama administration, was the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.
Sandhu said, “She is also, without a doubt, one of the most recognizable faces of the United States in India.”
"But even as we celebrate the progress we have made, Nisha and I would agree that our task remains unfinished that the business of this extraordinary partnership between India and the United States is very much a work in progress," he added.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Alice G Wells, who was also present at the reception, said, “Ambassador Sandhu is a seasoned veteran of Washington and a true friend of the US-India partnership.”
Wells, also showering kudos on Biswal, said that since she took over the reins of the USIBC, it “is playing an indispensable role in building the private sector linkages that are so vital to this relationship.”
“Many of the U.S.-India milestones achieved in recent years are due in no small part because of her efforts,” she added.