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Itís time to set new agenda: Modi, Obama
Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington DC

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama have set an ambitious agenda that seeks to reinvigorate the US-India relationship that some analysts say has stagnated in recent years.

In their meeting at the White House on Tuesday, the two leaders had a wide-ranging discussion that included ways to expand collaboration in trade, investment and technology; boost manufacturing and expand affordable renewable energy; US support for the "Clean India" campaign, which will include leveraging private and civil society expertise to improve sanitation and hygiene in India, a cause Modi has championed; and the environment. Outer space was, literally, the limit of the discussions.

Modi's election and the large mandate he received from the Indian electorate is seen in Washington as a unique opportunity to broaden and deepen the bilateral relationship. Obama alluded to this sentiment over dinner with Modi on Monday night, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters in Washington.

While the dinner was the first time the two leaders met face to face, both were busily coordinating a joint editorial online in the days before the dinner.

Noting that it is time to set a new agenda that realises "concrete benefits" for Indians as well as Americans, the two leaders wrote in the editorial published on The Washington Post's website that this agenda should be one that "enables us to find mutually rewarding ways to expand our collaboration in trade, investment and technology that harmonise with India's ambitious development agenda, while sustaining the US as the global engine of growth."

"While our shared efforts will benefit our own people, our partnership aspires to be larger than merely the sum of its parts," they said.

"As nations, as people, we aspire to a better future for all; one in which our strategic partnership also produces benefits for the world at large. While India benefits from the growth generated by US investment and technical partnerships, the United States benefits from a stronger, more prosperous India. In turn, the region and the world benefit from the greater stability and security that our friendship creates. We remain committed to the larger effort to integrate South Asia and connect it with markets and people in Central and Southeast Asia," they added.

Modi and Obama reaffirmed the commonalities and mutual interests shared by India and the US that first prompted Atal Behari Vajpayee to declare the two nations natural allies.

A separate statement released by the White House, "Chalein Saath Saath: Forward Together We Go," declared "vision that the United States and India will have a transformative relationship as trusted partners in the 21st century."

"Our partnership will be a model for the rest of the world," it added.

The White House vision statement identified areas of India-US collaboration that include security, including combating terrorist threats and the spread of weapons; coordinated responses to climate change and humanitarian crises; partnership to ensure affordable, clean, reliable, and diverse sources of energy, including through efforts to bring US-origin nuclear power technologies to India; joint research and collaboration on space; and a commitment to open markets, fair and transparent practices that will allow trade in goods and services to flourish.

The vision statement also reaffirms US support for a greater role for India at the UN Security Council.

These positive signals come at a time analysts and officials say the relationship, once buoyed by the lofty expectations of a US-India nuclear deal, has run adrift.

In their editorial, Modi and Obama address such opinions by describing the US-India partnership as "robust, reliable and enduring, and it is expanding."

"Our relationship involves more bilateral collaboration than ever before, not just at the federal level but also at the state and local levels, between our two militaries, private sectors and civil society," they write. The editorial also gives a nod to the contributions of the Indian-American community, which the two leaders describe as a "vibrant, living bridge between us."

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