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The US and India represent two large democracies in the world, both facing rapid, seismic shifts in economic policy and trade. A strong partnership bodes well for both countries, promoting a synergy that addresses many fields of common interest.

The first West Coast summit of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) in Palo Alto, California was a meeting of minds to discuss how to accomplish exactly that – what needs to change or evolve to strengthen the bond was the core question that was addressed in various ways. It was chaired by none other than John Chambers, ex-CEO of networking giant Cisco and winner of India’s prestigious civilian award, the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to the India-US trade relationship.

Mukesh Aghi, President and CEO of USISPF opened the summit and welcomed John Chambers to the stage. Throughout his speech, Mr. Chambers expressed a deep admiration for India and Narendra Modi, the current Indian Prime Minister. In his own words, “India is positioned strong for the next 25 years,” and has a future as “one of the leading startup nations of the world.”

Escorted into the event with much fanfare, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice graced the crowd with a luminous keynote speech. She spoke about economic affairs, world politics, foreign trade, and a subject close to her heart- education. “At heart, I am a professor and like helping students reach their whole potential,” she said, alluding to her current teaching responsibilities at Stanford University. She thinks the possibilities for the India-US relationship are endless and can eventually contribute to world stability. According to her, democracy is messy as opposed to authoritarianism but will ultimately be more effective in bringing about desired change in the world.

Participating in the technology and investment panel were: Praveen Akkiraju, Managing Partner, SoftBank Investment Advisers; Shashin Shah, Founder and CIO, Think Investments; Nandita Bakhshi, President and CEO, Bank of the West; and Moderator: Anis Uzzaman, General Partner and CEO, Fenox Venture Capital.

Praveen Akkiraju stated that currently India has a base of talent that understands what the world wants and is able to deliver it. Nandita Bakshi, VP of Bank of the West spoke about the digitization of banks and how fintech has created an environment wherein every bank has to fight for customers.

The India Possibility in the Current International Trade Environment panel included John Kern, Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Operations, Cisco, Mike Train, President, Emerson, Dow Wilson, President and CEO, Varian Medical Systems, Richard Nash, Vice President, Head of Government Relations, PayPal, and the moderator was Kailesh Karavadra, Managing Partner, West Region Growth Markets, Ernst & Young LLP. The panel addressed current trade and regulatory concerns. “Tariffs do not build jobs. Trade does,” declared Cisco’s SVP John Kern. CEO Dow Wilson of Varian Medical Systems commented that regulatory burden is high in India and needs to be addressed. “it makes some wonder about the long term.”

Ambassador of India to the United States, Harsh V. Shingra spoke about the diverse issues that India was wrestling with in the geo-political and domestic arenas. Mr. Shingra said, “The US-India relationship is multifaceted, and we need to not let minor roadblocks distract us from our larger goals.”

Overall, the first West Coast summit by USISPF highlighted the key issues in current India-U.S. economic relations with speakers articulating key strategies to continue to build bridges and strengthen the relationship between the two countries. It now may be time to work towards the “endless possibilities” that Condeleezza Rice spoke about.

Vasudha Badri-Paul lives in the Bay area with her family and dog. She is a technology marketing professional who is passionate about good ideas and the creative arts. You can often spot her hiking in the hills or helping out at a nonprofit organization.

 

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