Announcing that they had reaffirmed the global strategic partnership between India and the United States, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President Barack Obama said that they were launching a new phase in this partnership. In their joint statement which reflected the scope of their discussions, the two leaders unveiled new initiatives to intensify cooperation on counter-terrorism, climate change, agriculture and education.

The India-U.S. Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative, explained by the joint statement as a move to expand collaboration on counter-terrorism, information sharing and capacity building, was initialled by Meera Shankar, India’s Ambassador in Washington, and Timothy Roemer, U.S. Ambassador to India.

In language that evidently addresses India’s concern that the U.S. was not condemnatory enough of Pakistan’s perceived inability to rein in terrorism, the joint statement expressed strong concern “about the threat posed by terrorism and violent extremists emanating from India’s neighbourhood, whose impact is felt beyond the region.” The two leaders agreed that “resolute and credible steps must be taken to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries that provide shelter to terrorists and their activities.” Speaking of Afghanistan, the two leaders “reiterated their shared interest in the stability, development and independence” of that nation and “in the defeat of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Mr. Obama did express his strong commitment to the implementation of the India-U.S. nuclear agreement but with the delay in finalising the arrangements on fuel reprocessing, the two leaders have adopted a cautious tone on the nuclear deal, and “reiterated their intention to realise the full potential of the India-U.S. Agreement” on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy “through the implementation of their provisions.” The two leaders also agreed “to expedite U.S. firms’ participation in the implementation of this agreement.”

Obama calls India a nuclear power

Meanwhile, Indian officials are attaching considerable significance to Mr. Obama’s acknowledgment that India is a nuclear power, in his remarks at the arrival ceremony at the White House on Tuesday when he welcomed Dr. Singh. “As nuclear powers, we can be full partners in preventing the spread of the world’s most deadly weapons…,” he said.

This acknowledgment of India’s nuclear status has made it easier for India to agree to participate in the April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit proposed by Mr. Obama and also cooperate with the United States in working towards a multilateral non-discriminatory and internationally verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on Tuesday between the two countries to “enhance cooperation on energy security, energy efficiency, clean energy and climate change.” This MOU, signed by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is to “bring together joint ideas on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green technologies to stimulate the India-U.S. Energy Dialogue.”

Another MOU was signed to intensify cooperation in agriculture and food security, calling for an expansion of the current partnership. Under the umbrella of a new framework called the “Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative,” the two sides have promised to increase university linkages and junior faculty development exchanges between India and the U.S. The funding for this initiative is to be from both countries.

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