Geithner Visit Stirs India's Hopes For Better U.S. Ties

Sanjaya Baru, editor of India's Business Standard newspaper. i

Sanjaya Baru, editor of India's Business Standard newspaper. Raymond Thibodeaux hide caption

itoggle caption Raymond Thibodeaux
Sanjaya Baru, editor of India's Business Standard newspaper.

Sanjaya Baru, editor of India's Business Standard newspaper.

Raymond Thibodeaux

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is in India this week, meeting with the prime minister, chief executives and entrepreneurs on his first official trip there.

The visit is stoking India's hopes for more U.S. investment and closer ties with America, says Sanjaya Baru, editor of the Business Standard newspaper.

"There was a momentum to the India-U.S. relationship during the Bush presidency, and that momentum had slowed down in the first year of the Obama presidency," baru Tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "Here, in India, I think, we're waiting for the Obama administration to catch up and move ahead."

But closer business ties come with challenges. For years, U.S. executives have complained about a lack of openness in India's economy. Baru denies that India's rules are a turn-off for foreign investors, saying its cautious policies have helped it weather the global economic downturn.

"For the last 15 years or more, we have been as open as any other modern economy, but there are a couple of sectors where we're not yet open: One of them happens to be banking; the second is retail," he says. "After the global financial crisis, I think most people around the world are giving India a lot of brownie points for not having moved too fast in opening up on the banking sector.

"We would have gone under like many countries around the world if we had been more open than we now are."

India also faces a challenge in the form of its larger rival and neighbor China, which is pointed to as the place to do business. China, too, has an emerging middle class, 10 percent growth rate and hundreds of millions of potential consumers. Baru says China has two major advantages over India: It doesn't have trade unions, and everyone in China falls in line with what the government in Beijing says. But, he says, studies show that India is a more profitable destination for U.S. businesses.

"They make more money, you know, for a given amount of investment in India than they do in China," Baru says. " I think we've been very bad in getting this message across to more American companies."

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