Article By: Manu Shah
On June 30th, IACCGH members and guests were treated to a realistic assessment of the “Current Nature of Indo US Relationship” by Keynote Speaker Dr. Mukesh Aghi, President, US-India Business Council at their signature event – the Distinguished Lecture Series. The packed event was held at the Hilton Americas and sponsored by Shell with Houston Business Journal as the Media Underwriters.
IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia welcomed the gathering and thanked IACCGH member Damodarran for coordinating Dr. Aghi’s visit to Houston. IACCGH, he said, has hosted several leaders in their fields at the Lecture Series to enable members to “learn from their wisdom and life lessons.”
Having led several trade delegations to India, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett observed that “this is exactly the kind of topic we need to be talking about going forward as the future is India” while Consul General P. Harish urged the Chamber and USIBC to engage with each other to promote bilateral trade between India and the US.
IACCGH President Ashok Garg also expressed his optimism at the “new momentum” between the US and India and stated that in the light of this, USIBC and the Chamber’s mission of promoting bilateral trade between the two countries becomes more crucial. In this endeavor, IACCGH has facilitated three delegations to India in the past year – with Mayor Annise Parker leading one of them.
Dr. Aghi is the new President at USIBC and travelled to India with President Obama this year. He holds a Doctorate in International Relations and an Advanced Management Diploma from Harvard and has led international business giants like L & T Infotech, and Steria, Inc. He’s also won several prestigious awards including the Asian Leader Award and the JRD Tata Leadership Award.
Dr. Aghi commenced his talk by outlining the trends that impact the Indo US relationship. China’s economic and political rise, Russia’s attempts to align with China to counter the US and Japan’s assertiveness as a result of these developments were causes of concern not only for both countries but to the “global order of the world.”
US, in turn, is following a strategy of managing China’s rise without conflict, a peaceful withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and maritime security in the Pacific.
Describing India as a country that is an “opportunity as well as a challenge” Dr. Aghi stated that there are a million new job entrants every year in India for whom jobs need to be created. In the next 10 years, an estimated 400 million Indians will move from rural to urban areas necessitating infrastructure. A growing concern is the Muslim community that seems to feel marginalized and must be better integrated in society to counteract dangers like the ISIS. The Indo China border dispute and China’s retaliatory gesture of supporting Pakistan – India’s immediate neighbor, are also major causes for concern.
The challenge, Dr. Aghi continued, is India’s dilemma of aligning with the US and managing China at the same time. The growing rapport between President Obama and PM Modi with the “chale saath saath” slogan, the common value systems and the growing trust between the two democracies has led to several positive outcomes such as cooperation in cybersecurity, nuclear energy, healthcare and a trade target of $500 billion in the next five years. According to Dr. Aghi, this is not just achievable but can even go up to one trillion dollars. He also stated that the Pentagon, for the first time, has formulated a Rapid Reaction team to support India as it is a country that is “pivotal to US strategy.”
When asked about the Modi government’s performance in the last 13 months, Dr. Aghi voiced the opinion that the top leadership is in sync with the Prime Minister and has been the most productive parliament to date. However a serious impediment to its progress is the large bureaucracy that is “still not moving.”
In his vote of thanks, Shell’s Vice President, Fred Whipple commended the Chamber for inviting “movers and shakers” to the Distinguished Lecture Series and stated that Shell was proud to support this series.
Dr. Aghi was presented with a plaque of appreciation by Consul General P. Harish. Plaques were also presented to IACCGH Past Presidents, Pankaj Dhume and Sanjay Ramabhadran for their tremendous contribution to the Chamber.
The next Distinguished Lecture, to be held on 27th July, will host Charles McClelland, Chief of Police for the City of Houston as Keynote Speaker. For those interested, register online at www.iaccgh.com or call 713-624-7131 for more information.
Photography by : Bijay Dixit, Unique Photo Images