WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama on Tuesday supported India’s candidature for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as he held talks at the White House with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on measures to further strengthen India-US bilateral ties.
“I am thankful for the help and support that my friend Barack Obama has extended with regard to membership in Missile Technology Control Regime and Nuclear Security Group,” Modi said. MTCR refers to the Missile Technology Control Regime, a key anti-proliferation grouping that agreed to admit India on Tuesday.
Obama said it was natural for India and the US, the two biggest democracies, to “deepen and broaden” their partnership. “I indicated support to India being a part of NSG,” the US President said. The talks come amid opposition by China to India joining the group that controls the global trade in fissile materials and nuclear technology.
“The key priority is how to promote economic prosperity and alleviate poverty, promote greater opportunities for both countries,” President Obama said.
The US has agreed to build 6 nuclear reactors in India — a key step in closing the first deal stemming from a US-India civil nuclear accord struck over a decade ago. The AP 1000 reactors will be built by Westinghouse, officials have said.
The meeting was held at the White House, where the Obama greeted PM Modi with a hug on his arrival. This was the seventh meeting between the two leaders after the Prime Minister took over office.
Modi has also been lobbying successfully with countries like Switzerland to gain support for its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a club of 48 countries that trade nuclear technology. The US backing for India’s membership of the NSG will strengthen India’s geopolitical clout and help it capitalise on nuclear trade and technology transfer opportunities.
On Wednesday, Modi will address the US Congress, seen as a rare honour. He will also attend a reception hosted by the Indian community before he heads to Mexico on the last leg of five-nation tour.
After his meetings at the White House, PM Modi will meet business leaders and address the US-India Business Council.
Modi told reporters the two leaders discussed a wide range of issues, particularly ways to take bilateral economic ties to new heights. The other issues discussed by them included terrorism, clean energy, climate change, regional security and cyber security.
The two leaders also welcomed the start of preparatory work on six nuclear reactors in India, a key step in closing the first deal stemming from a US-India civil nuclear deal struck over a decade ago. The two leaders said in a joint statement that India and the US Export-Import Bank intend to work together toward a competitive financing package for the project and will work to finalize contractual agreements by June 2017.
“Once completed, the project would be among the largest of its kind, fulfilling the promise of the US-India civil nuclear agreement and demonstrating a shared commitment to meet India’s growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels,” the joint statement said.
Earlier, a flag-bearing military honour guard greeted Modi as he arrived at the entrance to the White House’s West Wing for talks.
Addressing the media jointly with Modi after over hour-long talks at the White House, Obama said they discussed progress made in the Civil Nuclear agreement.
“I indicated support to India being a part of NSG,” the US president said amidst opposition by China to such a move.
Obama underlined that India needs technology which is critical for its progress and prosperity.
Modi later said, “I am thankful for the help and support that my friend President Obama has extended with regard to membership in MTCR and NSG.
Obama and Modi also welcomed the announcement by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Westinghouse that engineering and site design work will begin immediately, the White House said.
These reactors would bring clean energy to India and generate thousands of jobs in the US, Brian Deese, senior advisor to the US President, told reporters in a conference call.
The White House said the steps that the two governments have taken in the last two years through the US-India Contact Group, including by addressing the nuclear liability issue, inter alia, through India’s ratification of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, have laid a strong foundation for a long-term partnership between US and Indian companies for building nuclear power plants in India.
India has agreed to work toward joining the Paris Agreement on climate change this year, India and the United States said on Tuesday, giving momentum to the international fight to curb global warming.
“We discussed how we can, as quickly as possible, bring the Paris Agreement into force,” Obama told reporters during talks in the Oval Office.
Both countries participated in the talks that led to the historic climate pact in France. The United States intends to ratify the agreement this year, and the two countries said in a joint statement that India would aim to do the same.
India is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the United States.
“India and the United States recognize the urgency of climate change and share the goal of enabling entry into force of the Paris Agreement as early as possible,” the statement from the two countries said.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 08-Jun-2016