Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a quick learner. After a leading industrialist dropped out of the business delegation on his recent visit to Japan, it has been decided that the PM will not take an industry delegation to the US. But on the state visit to the US, India Inc., nonetheless, will be present in strength and attend various business meetings and receptions to be organised for Modi in New York and Washington. And the industrialist who had dropped out of the Japan visit at the last minute will be very much present at these dos for the visiting Indian PM. Be that as it may, business is set to dominate Modi’s agenda in the US. Whether it is meetings with the former and current mayors of New York, or his one-to-one interactions with the heads of some of the biggest US multinationals, Modi will remain focused on getting more investment and more technology for India.
Given that big business is virtually autonomous of Washington, unlike China, where President Xi’s nod can move billions in a jiffy, it is just as well that the visiting Indian Prime Minister should directly engage those CEOs who have in their power to move billions from point A to point B, should they be convinced about the potential of their investments. And Modi has undertaken personally to convince these movers and shakers of the American business that he intends to create a very conductive atmosphere for investment and growth in India. Of course, there will be plenty of opportunity for what are called the atmospherics, what with Modi addressing a rally of some 20,000-odd, a very big audience for the Americans, in the heart of New York. To be organised by the Friends of BJP in America, it will attract NRIs from all over the US and Canada. One can expect Modi to enthrall American ‘desis’ with his vintage oratory, laced with a call to invest in the country of their origin. Modi will also be seen in action at the reception to be hosted by the US-India Business Council at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Here, the big shots of Indian business are set to rub shoulders with their American counterparts while Modi unveils his vision for his ‘Make in India’ project, in order to enhance this country’s paltry manufacturing base and create more jobs for its huge army of unemployed youth.
As for his talks with Obama, it is doubtful much of lasting significance can emerge, especially when the US is distracted by the ISIS perfidy in West Asia and the President is hamstrung by a Republican Congress. Besides, Obama has not shown the same keenness to boost Indo-US ties which his immediate predecessor had. Even on the nuclear deal, there is little prospect of a further movement, given that the ball is in India’s court, which alone can relax the almost impossible liability provisions holding back foreign suppliers from resuming nuclear commerce with this country. Also, Obama cannot have and does not have, the luxury of announcing billions in investments in this country or any other the way the all-controlling Chinese rulers can. Yet, a joint statement, setting out the usual common goals and shared objectives and a broad hint about keeping South Asia and the entire region further afield free from expansionist tensions, will be in order to convey the message to the only aggressively expansionist power in the world. Frankly, Modi has revealed a hitherto unsuspected talent for conducting foreign affairs and one can expect him to do well while he is in America.
CBI must do its job—and honestly
The CBI has done well to start investigating the role, if any, of former Finance Minister P Chidambaram in the Aircel-Maxis deal. It cannot be anyone’s case that Chidambaram should remain above suspicion merely because he has a high media profile. The case against him should be examined solely on its merit. And if the CBI does that fairly, no one can complain, least of all Chidambaram and his numerous friends in the editorialist classes. After all, it should not be forgotten that the forced marriage between Aircel and Maxis was a huge scam. Chidambaram’s own son was allegedly associated, as per the debates in the Rajya Sabha, with one of the companies involved in the deal. Merely because the CBI has acted in an arbitrary manner in the past, merely because it has a reputation for doing the bidding of the political executive, every investigation it undertakes cannot be brushed aside as motivated by extraneous reasons. Indeed, it is idiotic for anyone to read political motives in the ongoing investigations in the Saradha chit fund scam in West Bengal, when clinching evidence of the TMC leaders’ involvement emerges almost every other day. Unthinking friends can do more harm than good. It is not for anyone to suggest that the case against Chidambaram is bogus. It is for the CBI to find out whether Chidambaram had the requisite power to approve the Maxis investment. If he had, the CBI should have no hesitation in clearing him. If not, he should be made accountable for his lapse like anyone else. That is it. Nothing more, nothing less.