US secretary of state John Kerry laid the groundwork for President Barak Obama’s visit to India in two weeks, listing cooperation on investment, civil nuclear energy, climate change and anti-terrorism measures as focus areas.
Investment and trade would get major thrust during the Modi-Obama meet, Kerry said on Monday before winding up his two-day tour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state where he attended the Vibrant Gujarat summit.
Obama’s visit to India as chief guest of this year’s Republic Day function and trips by Kerry and other US senior officials aim to woo India as a strategic partner and to win greater access to the Indian market.
“He is excited to be the chief guest at the function (Republic Day) and the fact that he is the first US president to visit India twice during his term really says a lot about the values both countries have placed on the criticality of the relationship,” he said.
American companies have been reluctant to invest because of the country’s stringent laws, such as those related to liability and intellectual property, including patents and copyrights.
“Under Modi, it has become clearer for the American companies to invest in India,” Kerry said, praising the Prime Minister’s aggressive pursuit of foreign investment to reboot a flagging economy by trying to streamline and simplify taxes, liberalise barriers and cut red tape.
“I think the Prime Minister has made it clear that he wants to move rapidly to make things happen in India,” he said. “Modi has built a reputation here by building efficiency, trying to make decisions faster by streamlining the bureaucracy ... these can be extrapolated to rest of India.”
The US has sought to sharply increase trade with India, which stood at a little less than $100 billion a year in 2013, to about $500 billion in coming years. India’s
investment in the US has also surged from $3 billion to $9 billion.
There could be progress on US-India civil nuclear cooperation, solar power and climate change when Obama visits India.
“We will work towards Modi’s vision to supply 24x7 electricity to India. We are committed to work with India to reach a landmark climate change agreement in Paris at the end of this year,” Kerry said.
“The goal is to have very concrete and tangible things that we can show forward movement on when President Obama and Prime Minister Modi meet, including on climate change.”
The two leaders are expected to discuss US concerns about the liability from building nuclear power plants in India.
Under a 2010 nuclear liability law which stems from the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, equipment suppliers are liable for damages from an accident, which companies say deviates from international norms that hold the operator responsible on safety issues.
“I am convinced that India and US will create healthier, more secure and prosperous environment not just for us but surely our policies will have impact on the world,” Kerry said.
He praised Vibrant Gujarat where he met Modi for over 30 minutes and a number of CEOs and business leaders.
“This morning, I visited the Ford plant. Ford is investing a billion US dollars in Gujarat for building its car factory which will supply cars not only to India but will be exported too,” he said.
Kerry also visited Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram where he interacted with members of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), calling them real entrepreneurs.