Power Pact Sunday Brunch for Obama

New Delhi: The Eagle has landed. After weeks of anticipation and intense preparation, US President Barack Obama accompanied by his wife, Michelle, landed at the Air Force Station, Palam in the national capital on Sunday.

In a special gesture Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the President and the first lady.  

Before boarding the Air Force One on Saturday, Obama said the ties between India and the US would continue to deepen, and that the duo were looking forward to the visit to enjoy the “generosity, hospitality, and beauty that marked our last visit” in 2010.

Obama and Modi have shared an increasingly close relationship, with two bilateral summits in the past six months.  

The two have many important topics for discussion, from the contentious nuclear deal, to the all-important defence cooperation, security and counter-terrorism.

Obama will be the first US president to attend India’s Republic Day parade; he will hold several meets and in another show of dynamism, will host a radio show with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The nuclear and climate deal have held on as both nations have been adamant on their points. America insists on rights to monitor the use of any material or equipment in a US reactor even if it is sourced from a third country.

So US authorities will have a right to forever monitor uranium, or any other material or equipment, sourced even from a third country like Kazakhstan or Australia if it is used in reactors built by American companies like Westinghouse or GE Hitachi.

This is being seen as an extremely intrusive measure by India which it would never agree to as it would impinge on its nuclear sovereignty.

Then there’s the liability issue; the Indian liability law holds the suppliers directly liable in case of a nuclear accident while countries like France and the US have asked India to follow global norms under which the primary liability is with the operator.

Since all the nuclear power plants in the country are run by the government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, following international norms will mean the government would have to pay the damages in case of an accident.

Another contentious clause in the liability law was unlimited liability for which international companies will find it difficult to get insurers. According to the sources, progress was made during the two-day meeting of Indo-US Contact Group in London, but some lingering issues may require resolution at the political level. 

The two countries will also deliberate on ways to boost trade and economic ties as well as the crucial issue of climate change. Earlier this week, American Ambassador Richard Verma had noted that bilateral trade that had grown fivefold to $100 billion in the past decade.

Climate change issue is also expected to figure prominently in talks between Modi and Obama.

India has balked at signing on to a binding accord without firm US commitments, noting that wealthy countries bear historic responsibility for climate change. The country also believes that its development plans would be marred if such a deal was imposed, squashing industrialisation.

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