People find time for sessions with the Treasury Secretary, and last weeks heavily attended US-India Business Council roundtable was no exception. The talk was all upbeat despite more recent turmoil than usual the Indian economy and stock market are doing well, and Washington-New Delhi relations really have improved significantly in recent years. Continuing concerns about the difficulties of doing business in or selling to India were directly addressed (sometimes by former U.S. Cabinet members and Ambassadors) to its Washington Ambassador in a high-level way that combined both growls and smiles. You could see how they all got where they are, in other words, but it wasnt clear that any of it would affect the bottom line.
Curiously, the prospective US-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement didnt really come up until the Q&A — was it too embarassing a standoff to broach? The official word is that Delhis negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency and application for a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group are both progressing, but it still seems as though some pretty big canyons need to be bridged before the Agreement could actually come into effect. Basic among them is the U.S. Congress insistence on exactly what several members of Indias governing coalition oppose: the right to monitor and inspect the compliance of a country that has never previously signed on to international accords such as the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Secretary Paulson did mention that he had a very constructive meeting with the leader of Indias Communist party (which has been threatening to pull out of Dehi's governing Coalition over this) during his trip to the Subcontinent last fall, but once again theres often a difference between nice talk and action.