India and US agree nuclear deal on Obama’s second trip

The three-day trip was heavy on symbolism from the minute the President and First Lady Michelle Obama landed

Click to follow
The Independent Online

India and the US have announced a breakthrough on civil nuclear trade, during President Barack Obama’s visit to Delhi.

“Today we achieved a breakthrough understanding on two issues that were holding up our ability to advance our civil nuclear co-operation,” Mr Obama said, on Sunday, according to Reuters.

“We are committed to moving towards full implementation,” he added.

Mr Obama, the first US president to visit the country twice, arrived in India at the start of a three-day trip that was heavy on symbolism from the minute he and First Lady Michelle Obama landed.

Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, broke with protocol to greet Mr Obama with a bear-hug.

“We rarely see these kinds of interaction,” said Siddharth Varadarajan, a senior fellow at the Centre for Public Affairs and Critical Theory in Delhi. “It looks as though Modi has decided to invest personal capital to build a close relationship with the US.”

This is a turnaround from even a year ago – before he was elected Prime Minister, Mr Modi was considered a nonentity in the US.

The first step was the nuclear deal; this resolved difficulties which had stymied a 2008 deal that gave India access to civilian nuclear technology, but had become stuck over India’s liability laws, which put the onus on nuclear suppliers in the event of an accident. 

“Six years after we signed a bilateral agreement we are moving towards commercial viability,” Mr Modi said.  

Yesterday’s announcement also resolved differences on US demands on tracking the whereabouts of material supplied to India.

Commenting on the development, Richard Rossow, a senior fellow at the Center  for Strategic & International Studies in Washington DC, said: “Nuclear co-operation has remained the cinder in the eye. It is the biggest area for strategic co-operation and the most evident of unmet promise.”

But it is one that seems at least a step closer to resolution today.

Both Mr Obama and Mr Modi have appeared keen to emphasise their relaxed personal relations during the visit. In the afternoon, Mr Modi poured out tea for Mr Obama as the two men smiled and chatted.

The two countries also said that they will work together to develop four defence technology products.

India is the largest foreign customer for US arms sales, but so far the two countries have not made any deals to work together on developing weapons.

“This is quite significant,” Mr Varadarajan said. “If there’s some real technology transfer, that would be one [major] take- away for the Indians.”

Today Mr Obama is set to become the first US president to attend India’s Republic Day parade, an annual show of military strength, and will co-host a radio show with Mr Modi.

Other topics on the agenda for the visit are climate change, renewable energy, taxation and defence co-operation.

“Both sides are looking to elevate the relationship to a higher level,” Mr Varadarajan said.

Comments