Kerry to visit India ahead of Obama trip

US Secretary of State John Kerry (above) will travel to India this week to join a key investment forum and pave the way for an upcoming visit by US President Barack Obama, an official said Tuesday. -- PHOTO: AFP 
US Secretary of State John Kerry (above) will travel to India this week to join a key investment forum and pave the way for an upcoming visit by US President Barack Obama, an official said Tuesday. -- PHOTO: AFP 

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to India this week to join a key investment forum and pave the way for an upcoming visit by US President Barack Obama, an official said Tuesday.

Mr Kerry will Saturday attend a global investors summit being held in Ahmedabad, in western Gujarat, the home state of new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki announced.

It is the first time that the United States will join the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit as a partner country, Ms Psaki said.

It is a biennial summit first launched in 2003 to attract foreign investment to the area bordering Pakistan.

The move comes as the United States is still trying to repair relations with India after a very public diplomatic spat erupted in late 2013 and plunged ties to their lowest level in early 2014.

"The secretary 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," Ms Psaki told reporters.

The trip would also boost trade and investment between the two countries, she said.

Obama is due to be "chief guest" at India's Republic Day parade on Jan 26 - a display of military might and ethnic diversity.

He will be the first sitting US president to visit India twice.

In November, Delhi and Washington also settled a bitter row over food subsidies that had threatened to derail a WTO pact to ease global trade barriers.

Two-way trade between the US and India currently stands at US$100 billion (S$133 billion) and the countries aim to boost the figure to US$500 billion but have set no deadline.

Ms Psaki told reporters that Mr Kerry might add other countries to his first diplomatic trip of 2015, but said these would be announced later.

Mr Modi, a Hindu nationalist who swept to power in May elections, had long been barred entry to the United States because of his links to anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people died.

He was chief minister when the savage riots broke out and, although he has never been found guilty of wrongdoing, the failure of his administration to confront the violence left a legacy of distrust and suspicion.