John Kerry meets India PM Modi
AMERICA’S top diplomat John Kerry on Sunday (January 11) met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, praising the man once banned by the US as a “visionary” poised to transform India’s economy.
The talks in Modi’s fiefdom of Gujarat came just two weeks before US President Barack Obama will be guest of honour at India’s January 26 Republic Day celebrations - in what will be an unprecedented second visit to India by a sitting US president.
Kerry and Modi met on the sidelines of a major trade summit in Gandhinagar aimed at attracting global investment to Gujarat - a model which the Indian leader hopes to use to boost the nation’s economy.
Addressing the summit earlier on Sunday, Kerry told hundreds of participants that bilateral trade between the two economic giants has grown nearly fivefold since 2000 alone.
Bilateral foreign direct investment now stands at nearly $30bn (£19.86bn), he said, describing Modi as a “visionary prime minister”.
“Together, we can create an environment where all of our companies play leading roles in bringing cutting-edge technologies, equipment, capital, and know-how not just to India but to countless countries that need this growth and development now,” Kerry said.
Modi swept to power in May elections last year, partly on a promise to revitalise the world’s third largest economy.
And he pledged to the conference to slash red tape and banish India’s reputation as a hard place to do business.
A senior State Department official said Modi was already being true to his word, by removing barriers, helping “to make the business climate better for Indian businesses (and) are also going to help US businesses.”
“They’re going to help India take its place in the global supply chain,” the official said.
But the official acknowledged that some of the hardest and thorniest issues - such as on civilian liability for nuclear energy cooperation - had yet to be resolved.
India and the US, which have had bumpy relations at times, struck a landmark civilian nuclear deal in 2008. But US companies have been reluctant to get to work in India as they are seeking greater protection from liability in the event of a nuclear disaster.
The issue is sensitive in India, where thousands died in 1984 in a leak from a US-owned pesticide factory in Bhopal.
Washington is also keen to move into India’s expanding solar energy programme, but is running into hurdles over New Delhi’s insistence that all parts for such projects should be made in India.
Negotiators were “rolling up their sleeves” with the aim of reaching some “tangible” deals including on climate change to unveil during Obama’s visit, the official said.
Kerry took a rare moment off his busy schedule of meetings to visit the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram, founded by India’s independence hero in 1917 on the banks of the River Sabarmati.
Removing his shoes, the top US diplomat visited Gandhi’s simple home which became the focus of his movement of passive resistance.
“Gandhi’s example inspires all of us to this day and for my generation helped to shape America,” Kerry wrote in the visitor’s book.
He later met the bosses of top Indian companies such as the Adani group and Reliance Industries to hear directly their concerns about doing business in America.