Modi, Obama Chemistry Amid ‘Nuclear Breakthrough’

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama wave to the media before their talks at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama wave to the media before their talks at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

NEW DELHI — Chemistry between US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was very much evident on Sunday with the Indian leader calling him by his first name more than once during their joint media interaction, according to PTI.

Obama displaying similar camaraderie in turn addressed the Indian leader as ‘Modi’ and referred to their personal relationship which they had been able to build “in a very brief amount of time”.

He told the media curious about the one-on-one talks they had in lawns of Hyderabad House, that the two leaders among other things compared how much sleep each of them gets.

“It turns out Modi is getting much less sleep than me. Of course, that is because he is still new. After he has been doing it for about six years, may be he will be able to get an extra hour,” the US leader joked, triggering smiles all around.

Modi said he believed that relations between countries depend less on “full stops and commas on papers” and more on relations between leaders. “How much they know each other, how is their chemistry, these are very important.”

“Barack and me have forged a friendship. There is openness with which we talk, we can talk comfortably over phone, joke with each other… This chemistry has not only brought me and Barack close or Washington and Delhi nearer but also the people of two countries. This personal chemistry matters a lot,” he said.

Before making his opening statement, Obama greeted people in Hindi, “Mera pyar bhara namaskar (my greetings with love)”. He also referred to their one-on-one talks over tea in Hyderabad House lawns as “chai pe charcha”, remarking that there should be more of it in Washington.

Nuclear Breakthrough

India and the US today reached a breakthrough on the stalled civil nuclear agreement by agreeing on commercial cooperation and decided to take defense cooperation to a new level including on upgrading domestic defense industry and advanced technologies.

The contours of the operationalization of the nuclear deal, which has been in limbo for the last more than six years, were not immediately available, although President Barack Obama described it as a “breakthrough”.

The deal on nuclear cooperation and other areas was clinched between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Obama after discussions spread over three hours at the delegation level as well as one-on-one chat besides a tete-a-tete on the lawns of the Hyderabad House reflecting the warm personal chemistry between the two leaders.

In his opening remarks at the joint media interaction, Modi disclosed that on the nuclear deal the two countries “are moving towards commercial cooperation, consistent with our law, our international obligations and technical and commercial viability.”

At the outset, both the leaders said they were committed to deepening relations between the two countries and the fact that Obama is the first US President to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations and also the first to visit India twice were signs of the growing relations.

“In the last few months, I see new excitement and confidence in this relationship. I see renewed energy in our engagement. I thank you for your leadership and for setting the tone last September.

“The civil nuclear agreement was the centerpiece of our transformed relationship, which demonstrated new trust. It also created new economic opportunities and expanded our option for clean energy.

“In the course of the past four months, we have worked with a sense of purpose to move it forward. I am pleased that six years after we signed our bilateral agreement, we are moving towards commercial cooperation, consistent with our law, our international legal obligations, and technical and commercial viability,” Modi said.

It was not known how the two countries have overcome the issues of liability clause in the Civil Nuclear Damage Law over which the US reactor manufacturers have serious reservations.

The US is also believed to insisting on tracking fuel supplies, even from third countries, to the reactors their suppliers will be building in India. New Delhi is said to be opposing such a condition as being intrusive and would subject itself only to IAEA safeguards.

On the insurance liability clause, India has been telling the US that it will build a pool that will indemnify American reactor builders against liability in case of an accident.

“Today, we achieved a breakthrough on two issues that were holding up our ability to advance our civil nuclear cooperation and we are committed to moving towards full implementation,” Obama said in his remarks.

“This is an important step that shows how we can work together to elevate our relationship,” he said.

Modi said Obama has also assured him of strong US efforts in support of India’s full membership of the four international export control regimes at the earliest.

“Today, we have also decided to take our growing defense cooperation to a new level. We have agreed, in principle, to pursue co-development and co-production of specific advanced defense projects.

“These will help upgrade our domestic defense industry; and expand the manufacturing sector in India. We will also explore cooperation in other areas of advanced defense technologies,” he said.

On terrorism, the Prime Minister said it remains a principal global threat taking on a new character even as existing challenges persist.

“We agreed that we need a comprehensive global strategy and approach to combat with it. There should be no distinction between the terrorist groups. Every country must fulfill its commitments to eliminate terrorists safe havens and bring terrorists to justice,” he said.

Modi said the two countries will deepen their bilateral security cooperation against terrorist groups and further enhance counter-terrorism capabilities including in the area of technology.

Touching on regional cooperation, Modi said the two countries renewed their commitment to deepen cooperation to advance peace, stability, prosperity in Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region which is critical for the future of the two countries and the world.

Modi said they also discussed working on how to help in the transformation of Afghanistan, apparently after complete withdrawal of the US troops.

Obama said both the countries are going to be strong and reliable partners for people of Afghanistan.

The two leaders said they have decided to scale up their economic relationship including holding talks in future on a bilateral investment treaty.

Modi said India and the US will also restart discussions on a social security agreement which is important for the hundreds of thousands of Indian professionals working in the US.

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