Next stop in Modi’s global PR campaign: USA

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Raveendran | AFP | Getty Images
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi

This weekend, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi will kick off his first official visit to the United States, the latest stop in his global PR campaign to tell the world India is back in business.

During his four-day visit to New York and Washington D.C., Modi will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama, congressional leaders, business executives and members of the Indian diaspora as he looks to strengthen economic and political relations between both countries.

"Modi-Obama Summit will set the framework for bilateral co-operation between the two nation's governments in defense, trade and infrastructure, at a crucial time when the new Modi government is developing its own strategic policy framework and geopolitical relationships with other world-leading powers," said Rajiv Biswas, chief economist, Asia-Pacific at IHS.

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Since taking the helm in May, Modi has actively sought to deepen ties with leaders of global economic powers, recently holding strategic dialogues with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The discussions were largely seen as successful in setting the foundations for India relations with Asia's two largest economies.

Modi has been a controversial figure in the U.S. for his alleged role in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat that led the Bush Administration to deny him a visa in 2005. Putting this aside, Modi has called India and the U.S. "natural allies," saying it is in the interest of both the nations to further develop their relationship.

To the U.S, India – with its large population, youthful demographics and fast-growing middle class – presents opportunities as one of the world's fastest growing consumer market. Total Indian consumer spending is forecast to rise from $1.1 trillion in 2013 to $4.3 trillion by 2023, according to IHS.

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Likewise, India is hoping to tap the U.S. for investment especially in infrastructure to remove bottlenecks for industrial development and revive growth.

As For India, the U.S. is a lucrative market for its outsourcing services that it has developed a competitive advantage in. India is also in dire need of investment, particularly in infrastructure to remove bottlenecks for industrial development and revive growth. Asia's third largest economy ranked 85 out of 148 for its infrastructure in the World Economic Forum's 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Report.

"An obvious dimension in which both countries would benefit is providing broader access to each other's markets for both trade and finance," said Eswar Prasad, professor of trade policy at Cornell University.

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"Bilateral discussions might help prod the Indian government to undertake reforms that would be good for the domestic economy, both directly and by promoting external trade and financial flows," he said.

While there is great scope for cooperation, there are sources of friction that have the potential to derail ties, say analysts.

India and the United States have clashed over the World Trade Organization (WTO) treaty on simplifying global customs rules, which India blocked in July because it wanted more attention paid to concerns over its food security.

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On a visit to India, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Modi that India's refusal to sign the trade deal had undermined the country's image, Reuters reported.

"A key issue for the two countries is to work together to address India's concerns about food security that would revive the stalled WTO trade facilitation agreement. This would be a signal of the ability of the two sides to work together in dealing with important but complicated and contentious areas," he said.