Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has turned what might have been a quick cameo United Nations summit this week into a high-profile tour of the U.S. in his latest push to raise India’s global profile. Mr. Modi’s six-day visit, which begins Thursday will combine political hobnobbing in New York with a tour of Silicon Valley. Since coming to power 16 months ago, Mr. Modi has brought India closer to the U.S. as China’s foreign policy across Asia has grown more assertive. Mr. Modi’s first official visit to the U.S. was in September 2014, and he hosted President Barack Obama in India in January. Both countries have expressed concern about conflicts in the South China Sea that involve Beijing. Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama are scheduled to meet on Monday.
This visit is about getting the economic dimension of the relationship right and to project India as a prominent investment destination by reaching out directly to the American corporate sector. Modi will address global heads of state at the Sustainable Development Summit hosted by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. After interacting with potential investors, media and communication majors and a dinner with CEOs of more than companies focusing on infrastructure and manufacturing in aid of his “Make in India” initiative in New York, Modi will head off to the Silicon Valley for two days over the weekend, becoming the first Indian leader to visit California in more than three decades.
He will be meeting Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and electric carmaker Tesla’s iconic CEO Elon Musk as well as Satya Nadella, SundarPichai and Shantanu Narayen, the India-born CEOs of Microsoft, Google, and Adobe respectively. It gives Facebook and Google the chance to press him on issues that have bedevilled them in India, a market they see as vital to their aggressive global expansion. Among their concerns are unreliable electricity, slow Internet speeds and an education system that does not produce the engineers they need. PM Modi is visiting Google’s campus and will hold a town hall with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Both Facebook and Google declined to comment ahead of PM Modi’s visit.
PM Modi is eager to bring jobs to India for the one million Indians entering the job market each year. India needs to maintain Gross Domestic Product or GDP growth of 9 per cent a year to provide them all jobs, but the rate is currently hovering at about 7 per cent. He sees technology as vital to increasing that rate.