John Kerry to focus on economic issues on India visit

Washington: As Secretary of State John Kerry headed to India ahead of President Barack Obama's historic visit on India's Republic Day, officials said economic relationship will be a big focus of his discussions.

Kerry will travel to Ahmedabad after a stop in Munich Jan 10 to attend the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki announced Friday.

He will join leading US business executives and innovators at the Summit to highlight the critical role that US technology plays in supporting sustainable economic growth across India and the Indo-Pacific region, as well as strengthening trade and investment between the two countries, she said.

Noting that this is the first time the United States will join the event as a partner country, Psaki said "We expect that a big focus of the discussion will be about our economic relationship."

Kerry will have separate meetings with American and Indian CEOs, she said. "And so they'll be talking about the ongoing opportunities for the US to continue to invest in India and to increase that partnership."

He'll also be visiting a Ford plant that will soon be opening, which obviously is a specific example of the investment of the US in India, Psaki said.

Meanwhile, Richard M. Rossow, CSIS Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank said the table is set for a real transformation in bilateral relations in 2015.

A great set of high-level meetings following the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) stunning victory in the April-May election, in particular the Strategic Dialogue in July and Modi's visit to the US in September, has established a new framework for cooperation, he wrote.

In 2015, it will be up to leaders, both public and private, to carry this momentum forward, Rossow wrote saying with back-to-back visits to India by Kerry and Barack Obama in January, the US and India have powerful opportunities to deliver on this promise.

He identified four issues that may bring the US and India together in 2015 as economic reform and renewed economic dynamism under the Modi government; securing an expanded, modern defence framework agreement; fixing the nuclear liability issue and finding tangible ways to demonstrate commitment to new regional cooperation.

However, two issues threatening to drive India-US apart, or trigger a new phase of "drift" were concerns over continued US military assistance for Pakistan and further anti-trade/anti-business measures.

In Rossow's view two issues that could break in either direction were coordination on Afghanistan and generating US infrastructure investment in India.

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