Adi Godrej Lambastes US Visa Policy, Lack of Good Indian Governance

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Washington DC – Adi B. Godrej, Chairman of the more than a century old Godrej Group, one of the largest family-owned businesses in India, in an exclusive interview with Tejinder Singh, Editor of India America Today, candidly points at the urgent need to streamline the US visa policy towards Indian businesses expanding in the US, while admitting that the Indian economy and businesses are passing through difficult times due to lack of reforms and governance.

Looking at US-India trade relations, are you satisfied with the status quo?

I think the US-India relationship, both on the economic front and on the strategic front, has certainly progressed well. I am the one who is never satisfied with the status quo, even if it is going quite well. There is always room for improvement, so while the Indo-US trade currently is around 100 billion dollars, two-way trade, we feel that it can be considerably enhanced.

Do you see this relationship progressing on a positive path?

India and the United States are natural partners. Unfortunately, in the past this natural partnership has not developed too well. I think it is taking roots now. One is the largest democratic country in the world, while the other is the oldest democratic country in the world. We are now, according to the purchasing power parity, the number 1 and number 3 economies in the world, so there is tremendous scope for mutual trade and investment.

What are the challenges that Indian businesses are facing in the US?

Main challenge for the Indian business in the US is the visa issue. There is tremendous Indian investment coming into the US, getting visas in time for the right number of people is becoming a challenge.

I think from the US side, the challenges are some of India’s regulations which restrict investments in certain fields — for example Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, investment in the aviation sector in India by airline companies outside, and such other cases. So each side has some issues and I think meeting like this helps resolve some of this.

After the much-hyped recent Strategic Dialogue in Washington, DC, which was attended by an array of Indian ministers, do you see this visa issue resolved?

Unfortunately not! It is not being resolved. Partly, it is to do with the political situation here where the US employment is running quite high and secondly the issue with terrorist issues. The government here is getting quite restrictive in terms of visa issues.

On the other hand, in India, the growth is slowing down and there are economic hiccups. Do you have recommendations as remedial measures?

Yes, most definitely. We have been in constant dialogue, not just with the government of India, but with the state governments in India, with the opposition parties. The reform program in India needs to be taken forward. Growth has slowed down in India. It can be revived quite easily if the reform program is taken forward and we need to improve the governance situation in the country.

So how will you sum up the US-India economic relationship?

Summation is, I think, the track on which Indo-US economic relation is moving is positive and we need to accelerate this positive track and we need to try and resolve some of issues.


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