U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travels to South Asia on Saturday in a bid to promote economic ties with India. Kerry and U.S. business leaders will attend a global investors summit inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Kerry’s trip to India comes after Prime Minister Modi visited Washington, in September, and discussed trade and business investment with President Barack Obama.
Kerry will use his visit to set up Obama’s trip to India later this month, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“They will be discussing the president’s upcoming trip as well as our economic relationship, our strategic relationship, our relationship on issues like energy,” said Psaki.
Prime Minister Modi campaigned on a platform of economic revival. As a result, the stakes are high for him at the investors’ summit, said South Asia analyst Michael Kugelman.
“He won by a huge margin in the election to repair the country’s economy. And, it’s very risky for him because there are such high expectations from the populace for him to do things and quickly,” said Kugelman.
Kugelman said the prime minister will need to assure U.S. officials that India is addressing some of the problems that have made trade and investment difficult in the past.
“It’s an open secret that for as much investment, as much foreign investment as there has been in India over the last decades, it is still exceedingly difficult to start businesses and to do things along those lines,” he said.
Despite past difficulties, which include bureaucratic red tape and concerns about patent protection, there are opportunities to improve U.S.-India trade ties, according to South Asia Center Deputy Director Bharath Gopalaswamy.
“I think defense is the biggest sector. That is the most contentious sector but, as well, a very big sector. Education is a key area in which investments - post-graduate education, collaborating with Indian universities, setting up Indian facilities, lab facilities in India to promote and support higher education and research opportunities. Those are some of the key areas that are available,” said Gopalaswamy.
Gopalaswamy said the trade relationship between the U.S. and India is still in its “discovery” phase, with room for significant growth.