'Obama Deeply Committed to Strengthening India Ties'

By Arun Kumar

Washington, April 3 (IANS) US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is embarking on a trip to India with an assurance that President Barack Obama is deeply committed to strengthening relations with India with a deep appreciation of common challenges posed by issues like terrorism.

"I can tell you, I've sat with the president as he's met with the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) at their principal meetings so far," he told select Indian media ahead of the visit discounting suggestions about public perception in India that the relationship was losing momentum under the Obama administration.

"I've watched him, listened to the president on this kind of stuff and I know he shares that kind of view very strongly," he said when asked about the sense of dismay in India about the level of US cooperation on issues like terrorism in the context of Mumbai terror attacks.

"I think there's certainly a deep commitment on the president's part to strengthen this relationship, a deep appreciation for the challenges India's facing and the common interest we're facing on these kinds of things."

"It would be helpful for me to be there and again try to do as much as I can to underscore the sense on the economic, financial side that we're working closely together on ways that we think are very responsive to these concerns," Geithner said.

On terrorism finance, "We have a lot of very productive, constructive things we've been able to do together on that front, we'll keep doing it," he said declining to give any detail.

On Obama's statements about outsourcing to India and companies setting up offices in India losing tax breaks, Geithner said in the face of "the worst economic challenges in three generations," and "in spite of the enormous political pressure in that area, the president is running a very strong open policy."

With the proposed changes in the US Tax code, Geithner said the US was "just trying to get reform that achieves neutrality" in the incentives to where one makes investments.

"We're very open to investment here; we're very open to trade here," he said. "We're committed to that and we're going to be very supportive trying to make sure American companies keep operating globally, but this is just a good simple pragmatic tax reform towards neutrality."

Noting that a lot of Indian companies were also creating jobs in the US, he said: "I think we're doing remarkably well in terms of the mutual interests and one of the reasons for it is because I think the Indian entrepreneur plays such a large role in the American economy today.

"It's a remarkable thing," Geithner said. "Great thing for the United States. Hugely beneficial to the United States as is the fact that we have companies operating in India on such a substantial scale in the high-tech sectors."

Asked about several Indian companies including the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on the banned entities list for export of high tech items, he said Obama had ordered a review to update and modernise the export control regime.

With 40 million Americans without bank accounts, Geithner said, "it would be nice for us in some ways to understand how India has been remarkably effective at extending the reach of the financial sector to people living outside the formal economy."

Similarly, both countries with different systems have huge infrastructure needs. "We both have large fiscal deficits. We both have to figure how we finance those infrastructure needs in ways that are fiscally responsible over time." Geithner said. "Again, this will be a chance to exchange views on what works."


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