Monthly Update on U.S.-India Bilateral Ties, April 2017
U.S.-India Technology Partnership & India's State Elections

FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai speaks to USIBC members

Last month, in an effort to build a deeper and stronger relationship with all divisions of the new administration of the U.S. government, the Council hosted Ajit Pai, Chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Chairman Pai’s remarks reflected the strength, vitality and bipartisanship of U.S.-India relations. The Chairman touched upon the synergies between Prime Minister Modi’s Digital India program and the FCC’s own policy and regulatory issues and said that, “Like Prime Minister Modi, we don’t see the state of our digital infrastructure as a simple telecommunications issue. It is an economic issue, a jobs issue, a competitiveness issues, an education issue, and a healthcare issue. Accordingly, we are committed to the principle of online opportunity for all. Every American who wants to participate in our digital economy should be able to do so.” USIBC has identified its number-one advocacy issue for 2017 to be the need for increased transparency and predictability in the regulatory process. Consistent with that goal, Chairman Pai committed to making the FCC more open and transparent to the American people and international business with a light-touch regulatory framework with little government interference.

On the domestic front, India has just completed an exciting state election cycle with unexpected results. The country can expect a degree of political stability with BJP’s historic wins in four out of five state election. BJP now has control over 17 states and the absence of strong opposition indicates that Prime Minister Modi has a clear path towards expanding the scope and pace of economic reforms. How can the Prime Minister and his team seize the momentum for the 2019 national elections? The first measure has already been set in motion. In March, India’s lower house, the Lok Sabha, passed four critical pieces of Goods and Services Tax (GST) related legislation, paving the way for the implementation of the new tax regime by July 1. The long- awaited GST legislation transforms India’s tax regime and creates a single market of almost 1.3 billion people. Industry will be watching for a streamlined implementation of GST. Second on the priority list, the Prime Minister will need to address declines in domestic consumption following the currency shock of last November’s demonetization policy. Thirdly, increase emphasis on ease of doing business. This could spring forward with clarification in FDI guidelines in certain sectors, and alleviation of issues such as price controls on medical devices, IP standards in genetically modified seeds, among others.  Prime Minister Modi’s government has acknowledged the need for record job growth and is addressing this through economic reforms and social programs. The government will need to improve standards of primary and secondary education in the country to improve India’s labor force. Although FDI inflows in 2016 touched a record high of $46.4 billion, it has not necessarily translated in to as many jobs, partially due to shortfalls in education.

USIBC is pleased to announce that the Annual West Coast Summit will take place on May 8, 2017 in Menlo Park, CA. We invite you to join the timely discussions on smart cities, internet of things, India’s move towards a cashless society, and the future of U.S.-India ties. USIBC Chairman and Cisco Executive Chairman, John Chambers will preside over the meeting. Prominent industry leaders from the technology, financial services, healthcare, and infrastructure industries will join the discussion as well. Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, Electronics and IT, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) will receive the “Transformative Leadership Award”- an award that USIBC instituted last year to recognize excellence in public service. As many of you may know from your interaction with Ms. Sundararajan, the Secretary has been at the forefront of the “Digital India” and e-literacy programs. We look forward to drawing from her insights on building India’s national projects such as Digital India, digital villages and removing hurdles to last mile connectivity.

Mukesh Aghi