WASHINGTON, DC: Barack Obama and Narendra Modi vowed to transform skeletal US-India security relations into an “anchor of stability” at the White House on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
Obama offered his guest a warm embrace, arguing it was “natural” that two of the world’s largest democracies should cooperate.
The visit was another symbolic marker on India—and Modi’s—long walk in from the cold.
Obama notably put his shoulder behind Modi’s bid for access to missile technology and nuclear commerce.
The two leaders also finalized agreements on military logistics and sharing “terrorist screening information.”
“The US-India defense relationship can be an anchor of stability,” a joint statement declared.
There was also a step toward better cyber-security cooperation, which experts say is crucial to protect outsourced US information technology.
For decades, US-India relations had been beset by lingering Cold War enmity and India’s controversial development of a nuclear bomb.
In 2005, president George W. Bush begun the thaw by lifting a three-decade long moratorium on nuclear cooperation with India.
Obama went one step further, urging nuclear powers to readmit India to a group of countries permitted to trade sensitive nuclear materials.
“We discussed the progress that we have made around civil nuclear energy and I indicated our support for India becoming part of the nuclear suppliers group,” Obama said.
That public display of support is likely to be noted in Beijing, which has been skeptical about India’s readmission.
Beijing sees India as a potential regional rival and closer India-US relations as a potential check on its power.
Obama also hailed an agreement for US firm Westinghouse to build six nuclear reactors in India.
When Obama entered the White House in 2009, Modi was effectively banned from visiting the United States for his role in anti-Muslim riots that killed hundreds.
Obama’s leaves office with Modi transformed from persona non grata to celebrated guest.
This was his fourth visit to the United States.
On Wednesday Modi will address a prestigious joint meeting of Congress for the first time.
The speech will be the fifth such address by an Indian premier, and the first in more than a decade.
It comes at pivotal time, when the body is blocking the sale of F-16 fighters to India’s archrival Pakistan.