Few signs of progress as Obama meets India's Modi

2014-09-30 23:32


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Washington - President Barack Obama showered praise on India's new prime minister in an Oval Office meeting on Tuesday that sought to infuse new energy into the two countries' sluggish relationship.

Yet for all the pomp and pageantry, there were few signs that Obama and Narendra Modi had resolved vexing issues that have often kept the two democracies at arm's length.

Following their first formal meeting, Obama hailed Modi for his energetic approach to addressing India's challenges since taking office. The president singled out the prime minister's focus on addressing "the needs of the poorest of the poor", as well as making India a source of peace and stability in the region.

"We have so much in common, it is critical for us to deepen and broaden the existing framework and partnership that already exists," Obama said.

Modi, speaking through a translator, said he expected the economic partnership between the US and India to "grow rapidly in the coming years". He offered optimism that the two governments could work through trade disputes and obstacles to nuclear energy cooperation with American companies.

The visit "has reinforced my conviction that India and the United States are natural global partners, based on our shared values, interests and strengths in the digital age", said Modi, who was elected with broad support in May pledging to help reform India's economy.

Still, while the two leaders said they'd covered key issues including economics, climate change and regional security, they closed their meeting without announcing any breakthroughs on lingering issues or major commitments to boost collaboration in the future.

Defence trade 

While military ties and defence trade between India and the US have grown, the economic relationship has been rockier, with Washington frustrated by India's failure to open its economy to more foreign investment and address intellectual property complaints. Challenges with an existing civil nuclear agreement and the arrest and strip search last year of an Indian diplomat have further frayed relations.

Typically, visiting heads of state spend just a portion of a day at the White House meeting with Obama and other US leaders. But Modi, whose election has been cheered by many Indian-Americans, was welcomed with the type of grandeur generally reserved for the closest of US allies.

The prime minister's visit also marked a remarkable reversal from barely a decade ago, when Modi was denied entrance to the US following large-scale violence in his home state of Gujarat that killed more than 1 000 Muslims.

Modi has denied involvement in the violence, but human rights groups continue to accuse him of serious abuses.

Read more on:    narendra modi  |  barack obama  |  india  |  us

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