Climate change will be a priority in talks with Modi: U.S.

by Prasad Krishna last modified Jul 02, 2016 05:08 AM
Mr. Modi will have a bilateral meeting with President Barack Obama on Tuesday and address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

The article was published in Hindu on June 6, 2016


“Advancing the ambitious climate change and clean energy agenda” and “further enhancing our security and diplomatic cooperation across the Indo-Pacific region,” would be the focus of discussions between India and the U.S during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit this week, a State Department official told The Hindu.

Mr. Modi is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Monday evening on a three-day tour.

Mr. Modi will have a bilateral meeting with President Barack Obama, to be followed by a lunch at the White House on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he will address a joint session of Congress, which will be a demonstration of the bipartisan support that the India-US relationship has acquired.

“Since 2014, there have been six meetings and countless phone calls between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi, and this visit reflects the significance that the two leaders place on our natural alliance,” the official said.

Wooing investors

Mr. Modi will interact with U.S CEOs and investors at the annual meeting of the U.S – India Business Council (USIBC) on Tuesday. USIBC President Mukesh Aghi said the meeting between Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama, “a PM who has not even completed half his term and a President who has only a few months left in office will be to strengthen the foundations of the relationship further and ensure continuity.”

Mr. Modi is visiting the U.S - the fourth time since he took over as PM in 2014 – at Mr Obama’s behest.

Mr. Aghi said the USIBC event would have CEOs of 25 Fortune 500 companies attending it. The event will also honour Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, and Founder and Managing Director of Sun Pharmaceuticals Dilip Shanghvi with the Global Leadership Awards. “The PM’s interactions with U.S business leaders will be aimed to get more investment and technology to India,” Mr. Aghi said.

USIBC is also lobbying with the U.S and Indian governments to restart the negotiations for a bilateral investment treaty (BIT). In a letter to the U.S government last week, Mr. Aghi said: "While both governments took a break from the negotiations on account of revising the model BITs, it is important for us to come back to the negotiating table to develop a way-forward on concluding a high-quality BIT.” USIBC also sought U.S initiative to nominate India for membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

IPR, Human Rights

Mr. Modi is facing protests from groups in India on the intellectual property rights policy that his government announced recently. The government has claimed the new policy does not compromise the country’s ability to ensure affordable drugs, but several campaign groups believe the Modi government is coming under U.S pressure on the issue.

Seeking a White Paper in parliament on the government’s engagement with the U.S on IPR issues, 11 civil society groups in India urged Mr. Modi “to withstand the pressure from the US government and corporations and to defend the people’s interests,” during his talks in Washington.

“We understand the primary intent of the (recent) policy is to respond to the aggressive demands of United States government, backed by the corporate interests especially the pharmaceutical companies, to amend India’s IP laws that include several safeguards to protect the public interest. The government of India should remain committed to the welfare of its people’s interest and should not succumb to the pressures that it is being subjected to,” the groups said, demanding to reconsider the “implementation of the National IPR Policy and send the policy back to the drawing board.” The statement was signed by Forum Against FTAs, Lawyers Collective, All Indian Drug Action Network, Initiative for Health & Equity in Society, Third World Network, National Working Group on Patent Laws, Gene Campaign, New Trade Union Initiative, Navdanya, Software Freedom Law Centre and Centre for Internet and Society.

In the U.S Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA) has expressed “grave concerns about the increasing intolerance and violence against India's Christian communities.” Recalling President Obama’s statement in Delhi in January 2015 on religious freedoms, the group said “the concerns he raised in that speech are very important for the future of US-India relationship.” “While President Obama’s comments have raised the level of attention paid to this issue globally, there are several cases of Mr. Modi’s government officials continuing to protect local groups loyal to him from prosecution. The general socio-political environment created by Mr. Modi and his party has only caused greater damage to the Union of India,” John Prabhudoss, FIACONA president said.

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