GANDHINAGAR: America’s top diplomat John Kerry on Sunday 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 Mr 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.
Also read:Kerry’s visit
Mr Kerry and Mr Modi met on the sidelines of a major trade summit in the state capital Gandhinagar aimed at attracting global investment to the western state — a model which the Indian leader hopes to use to boost the nation’s economy.
India planning to take quantum leap, says prime minister
Addressing the summit earlier on Sunday, Mr Kerry told hundreds of participants that bilateral trade between the two economic giants had grown nearly fivefold since 2000.
Bilateral foreign direct investment now stood at nearly $30 billion, he said, describing Mr 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,” Mr Kerry said.
Mr Modi pledged to the conference to slash red tape and banish India’s reputation as a hard place to do business. “My government is committed to create a policy environment that is predictable, transparent and fair,” he said.
“The process of development we are taking up is not incremental. We are planning to take a quantum leap. It is not limited to one sector or region, it is truly unlimited,” Mr Modi remarked.
A senior State Department official said the Indian premier 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 Mr Obama’s visit, the official said.
Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2015