Shortly after noon on Tuesday, with Obama by his side at the Oval Office in the White House, Vice President Joe Biden in the room, and a bust of Martin Luther King Jr behind him, Modi said: “We are working shoulder to shoulder, we are proud (about that)…we will continue working together.”
This remark came after the two leaders met and decided on two key areas: Westinghouse finally agreeing to set up six nuclear reactors in India and a series of new climate financing initiatives.
Another area that saw forward movement was the much-awaited Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) where the two sides have “finalised the text of the agreement”, Foreign secretary S Jaishankar said. During US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s visit in April this year, an “in-principle” decision was made to conclude the agreement.
LEMOA, once signed, will allow US and Indian militaries to get access to each other’s facilities.
Following up on the nuclear deal signed in October 2008, John Morton, the White House’s senior director for Energy and Climate Change, said that the US will begin “preparatory work” on delivering six nuclear reactors to India and the two countries will set a June 2017 deadline to finalize a nuclear energy deal.
A joint statement said that they will start “preparatory work” on site in India for “six AP 1000 reactors to be built by Westinghouse”.
The Indian Express had reported last week that the two sides were likely to close the deal during the visit, and an announcement was expected.
Obama said: “We discussed progress made on nuclear civil cooperation”.
Modi also appreciated the assistance and support of “my friend Obama” towards India’s application to be a member of MTCR and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Officials said that India and the US Export-Import Bank will work together towards a competitive financing package for the project. “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. Both sides welcomed the announcement by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, and Westinghouse that engineering and site design work will begin immediately and the two sides will work toward finalizing the contractual arrangements by June 2017,” a statement said.
With climate change dominating the agenda pushed by the Obama administration, the two sides announced “the creation of a $20-million US-India Clean Energy Finance (USICEF) initiative, equally supported by the United States and India”.
This is expected to mobilize up to $400 million to provide clean and renewable electricity to up to 1 million households by 2020; along with a commitment to establish the US-India Clean Energy Hub as the coordinating mechanism to focus United States Government efforts that, in partnership with leading Indian financial institutions, will increase renewable energy investment in India.
“There will be a $40-million US-India Catalytic Solar Finance Program, equally supported by the US and India, that, by providing needed liquidity to smaller-scale renewable energy investments, particularly in poorer villages that are not connected to the grid, could mobilize up to $1 billion of projects; the expansion of handholding support to Indian utilities that are scaling up rooftop solar and continuation of successful cooperation with USAID on “Greening the Grid”.”
Brian Deese, Obama’s top climate change advisor, said Obama and Modi are “aligned and on the same page” about the need to ratify the Paris climate deal, and that both will work towards achieving that goal this year.
After the meeting which continued over a working lunch, Obama and Modi reiterated that they had discussed a number of topics including cybersecurity, climate change, and economic cooperation.
“A key priority for both of us is how to promote economic prosperity and opportunity, and poverty alleviation for our people,” Obama said. “We continue to discuss a wide range of areas where we can cooperate more effectively in order to promote jobs, promote investment, promote trade, and promote greater opportunities for our people, particularly young people, in both of our countries.”
Modi followed up, saying that India is a country with 800 million who are below the age of 35. “The United States is well aware of the talent that India has,” he said. “We and the United States can work together to bring forward this talent and use it for the benefit of mankind…for the benefit of innovations and use it to achieve new progress.”
Both leaders underlined climate change, noting the agreement signed in Paris and efforts to ensure that its terms are complied with. Modi said they would meet again at the G20 summit, and hope to have made progress on several issues they had discussed.