ChIndia in US: When India chose to rise toe to toe and go head-to-head with China on US soilChidanand Rajghatta and the Times of India Prime Minister Modi arrived in New York, a city so "desi" that every second cabbie can handle instructions in Hindi, Punjabi, or Bengali. His interaction with American financial heavies, Fortune 500 CEOs, and media czars was as impressive, if not more, partly on account of lack of any friction that characterized some of Xi's meetings.
As for dollar value, a pretty meaningless metric meant only to pop eyeballs, JP Morgan Chase — whose honcho Jamie Dimon attended the Modi meeting — alone has assets worth $2.6 trillion. The 42 CEOs he met head companies reportedly worth $4.5 trillion.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi poses for a group photo with CEOs of America after an interaction in New York. (PTI photo)
Xi and Modi are not done yet. The Chinese president arrived later in the day in Washington where he will be honoured with a White House state banquet despite differences and tensions with the US and public wrangling over cyber attacks. Modi had to settle for an official visit and hot water when he visited last year in the middle of his Navratri fast; besides, his predecessor Manmohan Singh had already snagged a state visit.
The Indian Prime Minister will leave for California on Saturday, where he will rack up even more meetings with tech tycoons, start-up stars, and assorted Silicon Valley overlords, topping it off with a rousing, Bollywoodized public meeting (with singer Kailash Kher for entertainment) that the Chinese don't have in their playbook, although their own soft power in the US is no less.
Both countries are showing off their respective bench strength and depth of their diaspora in the US and their global tech economy heft. Xi's meeting at the Microsoft campus included Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, chipmaker AMD CEO Lisa Su, and Alibaba founder Jack Ma, among others. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, whose wife Priscilla Chan is Chinese-American, greeted him in Mandarin.
Modi, on his part, will pull in Microsoft's Satya Nadella (who hosted the Xi meeting in Seattle), Google's Sundar Pichai (who did not go to Seattle), Sandisk's Sanjay Mehrotra, among other Indian-origin CEOs, besides visiting Tesla and Google (where some key joint announcements are to be made) and taking part in a townhall with Facebook's Zuckerberg, who will doubtless summon up at least a "Namaste".
In fact, the difference between the two countries and the way they approach the world is evident in how the two leaders are handling their engagements — one has a tightly-scripted programme that disdains open interactions and social media. The other embraces open forums and social media engagement, although some of it is choreographed.
They will both return to New York, staying at the Chinese-owned Waldorf-Astoria, although the Indian side had the option of staying at the Tata-owned Pierre — an even fancier digs slightly uptown across from Central Park — but chose proximity and logistics over bragging rights.
The term Indo-China has long described the two countries sphere of influence in South East Asia, and the portmanteau word ChIndia, coined by Congress strategist Jairam Ramesh, alludes to their heft. But on Thursday, there were the first contours of "ChIndUS Century" - a China, India, US triage to address the economic ills of the world.
Economic growth in China and India and their buying power will keep America humming