Special to the tribune
Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington
Singh made the remarks after his meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House Oval Office in which the two leaders touched on a range of subjects, from terrorism to trade and Syria to Afghanistan.
Obama said the US and India had made “enormous progress” on civilian nuclear cooperation, which has, over the years, transformed from the centrepiece of the relationship to a bone of contention.
The two sides “have been able to achieve just in the last few days an agreement on the first commercial agreement between a US company and India on civilian nuclear power,” Obama said.
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the US and India said Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and US nuclear company Westinghouse had concluded a preliminary contract to develop a nuclear power plant in Gujarat. “The leaders urged the NPCIL and US companies Westinghouse and General Electric-Hitachi to expedite the necessary work to establish nuclear power plants in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh,” the statement said, adding that both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the “full and timely implementation” of the India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. This is seen as an attempt to provide fillip to a bilateral relationship that is widely perceived in Washington and New Delhi as having lost steam.
In their discussions on Pakistan, Singh said he had explained to the President the difficulties India faced given the fact that the epicentre of terrorism “still remains focussed in Pakistan”.
Lowering expectations of his meeting with Sharif, Singh said he looked forward to meeting his Pakistani counterpart in New York, “even though the expectations have to be toned down given the terror arm which is still active in our subcontinent”.
Obama acknowledged Singh’s deep concern about terrorism. Taking note of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and the attack in Jammu this week, Obama said: “India continues to suffer from terrorist attacks, and our hearts go out to the families that have been impacted.”
Obama said they discussed a “shared interest in seeing a peaceful reduction of tensions on the subcontinent”, and expressed gratitude for the Prime Minister’s “consistent interest in improving cooperation between India and Pakistan”. Obama will meet Sharif at the White House on October 23.
Obama briefed Singh on Syria, on which the Prime Minister said he complimented the President “for his vision, for his courage in giving diplomacy yet another chance”. The two leaders also discussed the situation in Afghanistan.
In what was likely their last White House meeting as leaders of their countries, Obama and Singh lavished praise on each other. Obama described Singh as “a great friend and partner to the United States and to me personally during his tenure as Prime Minister of India”.
Singh said Obama had “made an outstanding contribution to strengthening, widening and deepening of our cooperation in diverse ways”.
Obama acknowledged the contributions of the Indian diaspora in the US, and mentioned recently-crowned Miss USA Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American.
Vice-President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser Susan Rice were present at the meeting, which was also attended by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Rao.
Unlike the lavish state dinner Obama hosted for Singh in 2009, the Oval Office meeting and working lunch on Friday were a low-key affair, symbolic of the state of the Indo-US relationship.
Pak still epicentre of terror: PM Manmohan Singh told Obama the difficulties India faced given the fact that the epicentre of terrorism “still remains focussed in Pakistan”. The PM said though he looked forward to meeting his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York, “the expectations have to be toned down given the terror arm which is still active in our subcontinent”.
Manmohan Singh told Obama the difficulties India faced given the fact that the epicentre of terrorism “still remains focussed in Pakistan”. The PM said though he looked forward to meeting his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York, “the expectations have to be toned down given the terror arm which is still active in our subcontinent”.