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India and USA Relationship on Smart Cities, Comment

Before entering into any discussion on smart cities, it is important to understand what a smart city is and why there is a need of a smart city?

In India, the urban population is around 31% of the total population and contributes about 60% of the GDP. It is expected that in next 15 years urban part of the country will contribute about 75% of India's GDP. The trend of urbanization seen in India is expected to continue for some more years. The global experience says that once percent of urbanization reaches 30%, the rate of urbanization after that increases very rapidly till it reaches a saturation point of around 60%. Since India has crossed the mark of 30%, the pace of urbanization will speed up. So, a plan for urban areas is needed.

As the fruits of development will start giving benefits to people, more and more people will start migrating towards urban areas in search of employment and better living conditions. A time will come when the existing cities like Delhi, Kolkata will not be able to accommodate more people. As these cities will become overcrowded, the living standard will decrease drastically. Here comes the concept of Smart city.

What is a smart city? The definition of smart city is different for different people. But since most people migrate to urban areas in search of employment and better living conditions, it can be defined as, "A city which can provide space for various economic activities, employment opportunities for all sections of society, where everybody can get employment irrespective of education, skill etc. It should provide decent living options, attracts investments, experts and professionals. Smart cities will be able to use technology in a very efficient way.

The government of India has declared to make 100 smart cities. The Indian government took its first step towards this goal by signing an agreement with USA. The three cities selected under this agreement for transformation into smart cities are, Ajmer, Allahabad and Vishakhapatnam. Ajmer and Allahabad are famous for tourists and religious affairs whereas Vishakhapatnam is a major sea port. USA will contribute funds for studies, workshops, trainings and study tours. As per this agreement USA will collaborate its various departments like USA infrastructure development cooperation with India. USA will also mobilize its private firms to share their expertise in development of smart city and will also mobilize them to invest in these cities.

As many cities of USA have been transformed into smart cities, this experience of USA will be beneficial for India. This agreement is also seen as a milestone in India-USA relationship. This agreement will help in strengthening of this bilateral relationship. This agreement was signed during the visit of USA president Barack Obama to India, who came to attend the republic day celebration. This was the first time when any USA president attended Republic day parade. This visit of Obama has raised the status of India on international ground.

This agreement can also be seen as the changed attitude of USA towards India and Pakistan. Historically, USA at many times had astonished India by taking many decisions in the favor of Pakistan like, stand of USA on Kashmir issue in 1947, supported Pakistan in 1971 and in many other issues. USA has also provided a large amount of military aids to Pakistan to fight against the terrorists but Pakistan used those supplies to fight against India. The incapability of Pakistan in combating against terrorism might have turned USA towards India.

The agreement is also important to counter the rising powers of China. China is one of the fastest growing economies and its increased military power is a cause of concern for both India and USA. Since China is neighbour of India, India has to balance the power of China. All attempts to make a good relation with China have failed because of frequent military expeditions of China in no men zones of Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh. A friendly relation between USA and India serve the benefits of both.

While moving forward with smart cities, the government should not forget that our country is an agrarian country. Our country will remain underdeveloped until our agriculture sector is backward. Making of smart city is a good step but government should not underestimate the importance of education, health sector etc.

Rahul Kumar