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Make in India Conference in Houston receives overwhelming support

Front: Panelists K. Nagaraj Naidu, Nisha Biswal, Dr. Manjari Miller Rear: Jagdip Ahluwalia, Ashok Malik, S.C.Garg, Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray, Dhruva Jaishankar, Sadanand Dhume and Jiten Agarwal.

Front: Panelists K. Nagaraj Naidu, Nisha Biswal, Dr. Manjari Miller
Rear: Jagdip Ahluwalia, Ashok Malik, S.C.Garg, Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray, Dhruva Jaishankar, Sadanand Dhume and Jiten Agarwal.

by Manu Shah
HOUSTON – A strong sense of optimism and pragmatism marked the inaugural Make in India – The Inside Story conference held in Houston on March 24th. A notable group of panelists with impressive credentials made a strong case for India as a manufacturing hub and its growth trajectory economically and politically without sugarcoating its ground realities.
The packed room which remained packed till the end of the conference suggested that the message of investing in India was clearly resonating with the gathering that comprised of Houston’s top businessmen, CEO’s, and entrepreneurs.
Asia Society Board Member Eddie Allen welcomed the gathering and lauded the Indian American “entrepreneurial outlook aligned with an unbelievable work ethic” that has contributed to the city’s growth and dynamism.
The visionary behind this conference, Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray noted that India would like to “replicate the unique Texan can-do spirit” and offered his assistance to businesses looking to set up shop in India.
Conference Co-Chair and Program Emcee IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia described India as a country that has the “demand, the demography and the democracy,” to spur business growth. India, he said, is taking definitive steps to encourage global investors – a discussion that was shortly taken up by the invited panelists.
Writers and political commentators Sadanand Dhume and Ashok Malik with Dhruva Jaishankar, a Fellow for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution India Center dealt with the recent political developments in India and its implications on economic and foreign policies.
Sadanand Dhume addressed the rise of Narendra Modi and the emergence of a strong BJP, the decline of the Congress which could be “terminal” and the extinction of the Communist parties in India while Ashok Malik offered a “helicopter view” of why India is a hot story today. The historic elections in Uttar Pradesh could offer India political stability for the next 7 years, the soon to be rolled out GST bill will boost manufacturing and the devolution of power to the States are huge positives. Dhruva Jaishankar touched on India’s engagement with the world stating that India is more outward looking today than ever in its history and must leverage its relationship with its “not the only, but the single most important partner – the US.”
The next point of discussion was the Investment Climate and Opportunity and Ease of doing Business in India where senior civil servants, S.C.Garg and K. Nagaraj Naidu drew attention to the Indian government’s priority in “creating conducive conditions” for business and replacing archaic laws with “pragmatic and practical reforms.”

COMM_Make in India conference_AudienceMember of Parliament, Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo pitched the point that “accountability” from the bureaucracy is soon becoming a reality which makes doing business in India easier.
A discussion on “Soft Power and Rise of India” was led by Dr. Manjari Miller, Assistant Professor of International Relations at Boston University and Dhruva Jaishankar. Soft Power, Dr. Miller explained, is the ability of a country to get another country to do what it wants without the use of force. She offered several instances where India effectively exercised its soft power but added that “India actually punches far below its weight.”
Citing several concrete instances where India’s soft power played out, Dhruva added that the Indian American diaspora who are “well integrated, well-educated and professionally successful” are also a testament to India’s soft power.
Nisha Desai Biswal, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs from 2013 – 2017 and helped drive strong bilateral relations between the US and India stated that President Obama put a “focus and effort to this relationship that was unprecedented.” Strategic convergence in several sectors between the two countries is higher than any other time but whether the current administration will take a “Strategic Partnership versus Transactional Deals” approach is a matter of speculation. She stressed the need to identify the champions on both sides to drive the relationship forward. Moderator Sadanand Dhume and panelist Ashok Malik also weighed in with their observations.
In his closing remarks, Chair Jiten Agarwal thanked the panelists for their participation and insightful views and hoped the conference was meaningful and relevant for the attendees. He also stressed on the need to find “common ground and win-win situations” between the US and India.
Special mention was made both by Chairman Jiten Agrawal and Co-Chair Jagdip Ahluwalia of the valuable partnership with Asia Society’s Saleena Jafry and Paul Pass who led the efforts in enabling the event to run flawlessly.

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