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Kerry arrives in India for trade, security talks

New Delhi (AFP): US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in India on Monday for talks on ambitious plans to hike trade between the world’s two largest democracies five-fold to around $100 billion.  

Kerry will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the two-day visit to the capital New Delhi and take part in a “strategic dialogue” between the two nations.

Kerry arrived from neighbouring Bangladesh where he held talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on efforts to combat extremism following a recent series of deadly attacks.

US President Barack Obama and Modi launched the “strategic and commercial dialogue” in 2015 in efforts to deepen security and economic cooperation.

US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who will take part in this week’s talks, has said the idea of increasing trade from $100 billion to $500 billion was ambitious.

A US State Department senior official said India needed to further reform its economy if the two nations were to achieve their goal.

“Clearly for two-way trade to reach that level, much needs to happen in terms of trade and economic reforms, and we have seen some movement in that direction,” the official said ahead of Kerry’s visit.

Modi pledged to reform India’s economy after winning landslide elections in 2014 to attract much-needed foreign investment and boost growth.

But some investors have since been frustrated by the pace of reform, although they welcomed the government’s recent progress to introduce a single national sales tax to replace a myriad of levies.

India is the world’s fastest growing major economy, expanding by 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015-2016.