India, US ‘natural allies’, PM Modi’s visit will further strengthen ties: Indian-American corporate leader

New York, Jun 20 (PTI) India and the US are “natural allies” and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit is going to further strengthen the relationship between the two nations, a top Indian-American corporate leader said, noting that ties have been on an upward trajectory.

The prime minister is visiting the US from June 21-24 at the invitation of President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. They will host Modi at a State Dinner on June 22. The visit also includes an address to the Joint Session of the US Congress on June 22.

He will also address an invitation-only gathering of diaspora leaders from across the country at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington on June 23.

The US is welcoming the prime minister of India with “open arms” and this State Visit is “very significant”, Deloitte Global CEO Emeritus Punit Renjen told PTI in an interview.

Renjen, who had served as chief executive officer (CEO) of Deloitte Global from 2015 to 2022, and retired on December 31 last year, also said all components of the visit, from Modi’s address to the Joint Session of the US Congress to the State Dinner are “remarkable”.

Modi’s State Visit “is a testament to not only the prime minister himself but to India and what the United States sees in the relationship with India” and “we should take great pride in that and we should take great hope in that”, Renjen, who is on the board of directors of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), said.

“India and the US are natural allies – the oldest democracy, the largest democracy. The large Indian diaspora, people like me that call India home as well as the United States, our commitment to the rule of law, these are all natural ally elements. I believe that Prime Minister Modi’s visit…is going to escalate and increase the relationship to the next level,” he said.

In February, President Biden had appointed Renjen to the powerful Export Council, the principal national advisory committee on international trade.

Renjen highlighted that Prime Minister Modi has done a “remarkable job” in fostering relationships with three different US presidents — Barack Obama, Donald Trump and now Biden. He said he believes that the India-US relationship has been on an upward trajectory.

The corporate leader said having served in the US-India CEO Forum, he has seen the relationship at the ministerial level “get to a much tighter, closer level”.

The relationship has gone to a “higher level” and it is “deeper across the board”, he said and added that this visit should propel these to that “very special relationship that people like me hope India and the United States can foster…”.

Renjen noted that India being part of the Quad is “very important” for the country’s geopolitical interests.

In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.

He also highlighted that India is part of Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity.

“All these are important, but I think India and the US can build a really unique, special relationship (not only) for the Indo-Pacific but actually for the entire world,” Renjen said.

“We in the United States need to respect India’s point of view. They do. India needs to respect the US’ point of view,” he stressed and added that “there needs to be mutual respect and mutual understanding”.

On Prime Minister Modi’s visit, he said what is expected to be accomplished from the historic visit is that there is a “tangible acknowledgement” that “we share values — values of democracy and rule of law”.

In this world, where there is a movement away from democratic principles, India and the US should stand tall, said Renjen, who was last year appointed as a member of the US-India CEO Forum, an initiative of the US Department of Commerce to deepen bilateral relationships between the two nations.

“I think a tangible recognition of that is something that would come out of this visit,” Renjen said.

In 2021, the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum had recognised Renjen with its Global Achievement Award, and in 2020, he was awarded the Oregon History Makers Medal.

Underlining the close business ties between the two nations, he said opportunities for US companies as well as Indian companies are tremendous and noted that as supply chains realign, the opportunity in India is “huge”.

“So tighter, closer business relationships and then of course, relationships across the entire spectrum, whether it is defence or cultural exchanges. I would expect that those will all go to the next level. I believe that India and the US are natural allies,” he said.

Renjen said India has a lot to contribute to the world, from yoga, Indian culture, Indian way of living, Indian entrepreneurship, ability to live in harmony with the environment to the country’s “remarkable development”. “India has a lot to contribute. I am just proud that in my lifetime, India is reemerging and taking its rightful place at the leadership table,” he said.

With India, currently the fifth largest economy and on its way to becoming the third globally in the years ahead, Renjen said that “there’s a lot of work” which India still needs to do, including poverty alleviation, educating women and girls, addressing the climate crisis, and access to primary health.

He said it is in the interest of both India and the US to address the climate crisis.

“The development trajectory that India and others in the Global South will follow will be different than what the West did We all need to come up with an answer as to how we develop, lift people out of poverty in a sustainable, inclusive way. India can and should lead the way” Renjen said.

There is a lot to do, he said. Though the Indian government has done a “tremendous job” over the last few years, the challenges that remain are great, Renjen said.

“We can address these challenges with the US-India relationship tightly together in a far better way than we can separately,” he stressed.