Within hours of the White House meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President Barack Obama, the two countries released a joint statement that showcased the breadth of their cooperation as well as highlighted joint naval exercises, promised momentum on investment treaties, reaffirmed their commitment to specific energy-sector projects and counterterrorism strategies.
Among the key initiatives flagged in the joint statement, India particularly welcomed the U.S. offer of membership in its ‘Global Entry’ Trusted Traveler Network programme, a scheme only offered to select countries, which will expedite the entry of approved Indian travellers at the U.S. border.
Despite U.S. officials remarking on several recent occasions that they had “specific concerns” about India’s nuclear liability law, Friday’s joint statement welcomed the announcement that Indian Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and U.S. nuclear company Westinghouse had concluded a Preliminary Contract to develop a nuclear power plant in Gujarat. It also reiterated that both nations remained committed to a “full and timely implementation” of the bilateral civil nuclear agreement.
On the subject of fighting terrorism, the two leaders not only agreed to undertake even more cooperation intelligence sharing homeland security cooperation, but they concurred in their strong condemnation of the September 26 terrorist attack in Samba in Jammu and Kashmir. They further called upon Pakistan to “work toward” bringing the 2008 Mumbai terror perpetrators to justice.
Defence cooperation, considered by many to be the “centrepiece” of the bilateral relationship, was applauded by Dr. Singh and Mr. Obama, who said that the way to take this forward in terms of defence technology transfer, joint research, co-development and co-production was by endorsing a Joint Declaration on Defence Cooperation.
Significantly the U.S. President was said to have welcomed India’s decision to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise, which will be hosted by U.S. Pacific Command in 2014.
Another key area of bilateral interest, economic policy, got top billing in the discussions on Friday. While the usual plaudits were issued on the volume and growth of two-way trade there also appeared to be a renewed vigour in the pursuit of a bilateral investment treaty, negotiations surrounding which appeared to have hit an impasse until recently.
On climate change international pressure on India to cut back on certain greenhouse gases in line with the Montreal Protocol was the core issue. As a interim solution to the conflict engendered within the Indian government over Mr. Singh going against a Cabinet decision in signing on to the G20 communiqué on this subject, India appeared to have won a temporary time extension in terms of the two leaders’ decision to convene the India-U.S. Task Force on Hydrofluorocarbons to discuss options based on “economically-viable and technically feasible alternatives.”
A number of third countries of strategic interest to New Delhi and Washington were also discussed on Friday, it was apparent, and in addition to covering ground on Syria, Iran and East Asia more broadly, Dr. Singh and Mr. Obama revisited the questions emerging on the endgame for Western powers quitting Afghanistan next year.
Specifically, the joint statement reflected a consensus on the view that violent extremists could only be countered by coordinated international support to build the capacity of Afghan National Defence and Security Forces an effort towards which both countries said they would remain committed during the critical transformation decade during 2015-2024.
The tone of the statement of the leaders themselves reflected a sustained warmth and personal chemistry that has been the hallmark of bilateral ties during the tenure of Dr. Singh. Variously the two nations alluded to each other as “partners of first resort” and underscored that their relationship had “crossed a threshold.”
Keywords: Manmohan Singh, Barack Obama, Indo-US civil nuclear deal, Manmohan US visit, Indo-US defence ties, nuclear liability bill, Montreal Protocol, green technology, RIMPAC naval exercise, Westinghouse nuclear plant, Gujarat nuclear project, war on terror