India’s relations with the US had scaled a “new level”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday, after his “chai pe charcha” with US President Barack Obama in the lawns of Hyderabad House here. The PM highlighted the “personal chemistry”, marked by “openness”, between him and Obama. They said in a joint statement their meetings had brought a “qualitative reinvigoration of strategic ties”.
Among the biggest takeaways from their discussion, Modi and Obama claimed to have broken the logjam over the Indo-US nuclear deal – after overcoming key hurdles related to the liability of suppliers of nuclear reactors in the event of an accident and tracking of fuel supplied by the US. India and the US renewed their defence framework agreement for another 10 years and inked an agreement to jointly produce military hardware, including four “pathfinder projects” like the next-generation Raven mini UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and specialised kits for C-13- military transport aircraft. The two countries will also explore the possibility of developing the jet technology.
It had been decided a “hotline” between the US President and the Indian prime minister, as well as their respective national security advisors, would be set up, Modi said. This will be an unprecedented move; India’s PM does not have a “hotline” with any other world leader. The two leaders also committed themselves to working on “more frequent” US-India summit meetings.
An ‘India-US Delhi Declaration of Friendship’, issued after the Modi-Obama meeting, attempted to define the contours of the India-US strategic partnership. It laid stress on the “importance of strengthening bilateral defence ties,” creation of “transparent and rules-based markets” and cooperation on climate change. “Chalein Saath Saath – forward together we go,” it said.
A key step for the regional security architecture – and something Beijing will take note of – was the declaration of the ‘India-US strategic vision for the Asia Pacific region and Indian Ocean region’.
This vision included a commitment to strengthening maritime cooperation, by ensuring security and freedom of navigation in the contentious South China Sea. The joint statement also called for closer India-Japan-US trilateral dialogue at the level of their respective foreign ministers. The US has also promised to help India become a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec).
The US also promised to help increase India’s voice and vote at international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The joint statement identified Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Haqqani Network, D Company and Jaish-e-Mohammad among the terror outfits whose networks the two nations will take “joint concerted efforts to disrupt”. It also asked Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack to justice.
India and the US also elevated their ‘strategic dialogue’ to ‘strategic and commercial dialogue’. From now, the strategic elements will continue to be chaired by the Indian external affairs minister and the US’ secretary of state, but the commercial components will be led by India’s commerce minister and the US’s secretary of commerce. Obama and Modi agreed to resume discussions on a “high-standard bilateral investment treaty” and on a possible India-US Totalisation Agreement. The two sides signed agreements for developing Ajmer, Allahabad and Visakhapatnam as smart cities.
The breakthrough on the nuclear deal – 10 years after the agreement was negotiated and six years after it was signed – paves the way for American companies to set up civil nuclear reactors, which India hopes will contribute to its energy security.
A nuclear risk management fund, worth Rs 1,500 crore, will be created to cover operators and suppliers. This will be led by five Indian public-sector insurance firms, which will together contribute Rs 750 crore to the pool (the rest will be provided by the government). Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said political leadership played a “key role” to find a solution to concerns of the Americans on the Indian nuclear liability law.
At their joint media interaction, Obama said India and the US had increased their bilateral trade by 60 per cent since his previous visit four years ago, to $ 100 billion, but it should be more. He welcomed Modi’s efforts to improve ease of doing business in India.
The Americans also showed interest in helping India achieve its target of generating 100 Gw of solar power by 2022. The US, through Usaid, will help set up an Indian Institute of Technology in Gandhinagar. Besides, the US will help Indian Railways modify leasing and PPP frameworks, to attract private sector funding.
The two leaders discussed a wide range of issues, including the situation in Afghanistan and the end-of-the-year Paris Conference on Climate Change. Prime Minister Modi said India was a sovereign country that could not be pressured to negotiate a climate change agreement, in the light of the US-China climate change agreement. He, however, said all countries should be “under pressure” to leave a better environment for the future generations.
The more important upshot of the Obama visit was the easy camaraderie on display between the two leaders – starting with Modi departing from protocol to receive Obama and US First Lady Michelle at the Delhi Airport in the morning, and the two leaders having a “one-on-one” discussion over tea at Hyderabad House.
Obama, who will attend with wife Michelle the Republic Day Parade Monday morning, noted he was the first American president to visit India twice and also the first to be the chief guest of the Republic Day parade. This showed his commitment to the relationship, he said.
|TALKS OVER TEA|