Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Barack Obama on Tuesday on the penultimate leg of his whirlwind five-nation tour, during which the Indian leader hopes to strengthen “strategic partnership in diverse areas”. Modi arrived at the Joint Base Andrews from Switzerland after securing the European nation’s support for India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership ahead of a key meeting of the 48-nation bloc.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the Prime Minister’s fourth visit to the United States:
1. Financial assistance for clean energy
Two financial assistance programmes worth $60 million to support India’s much-needed clean energy initiatives was announced by the two countries. “The United States is committed to bring to bear its technical capacity, resources and private sector, and is jointly launching with India new efforts, to spur greater investment in India’s renewable energy sector, including efforts that can serve as a model for other ISA Member Countries,” the White House said.
This includes the creation of a $20-million US-India Clean Energy Finance initiative and a $40 million US-India Catalytic Solar Finance Programme. It is expected to mobilise up to $400 million to provide clean and renewable electricity to up to 1 million households by 2020.
2. Cyber framework accord
Ushering in a new era of collaboration in the cyberspace, India and the US will sign a framework for a bilateral cyber relationship within the next two months. The announcement in this regard was made in a joint statement after the White House meeting between Modi and Obama.During the meeting the two leaders emphasised that cyberspace enables economic growth and development, and reaffirmed their commitment to an open, interoperable, secure and reliable internet, underpinned by the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance.
“They committed to deepen cooperation on cybersecurity and welcomed the understanding reached to finalize the framework for the US-India Cyber Relationship in the near term,” the joint statement said.
3. India’s role in Paris climate change agreement recognised
The historic climate change agreement in Paris may not have been possible without the leadership shown by India in making some “substantial commitments”, the White House said. “It’s unlikely that we would have actually reached an agreement in Paris last December had the Indians not stepped up and shown some leadership in making some substantial commitments,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
Earnest said Modi’s role at Paris last year is a testament to his willingness to take a political risk to do what he thinks is right, not just for his country, but for the planet.In a joint statement with the US, India said it would seek to join the climate deal “as soon as possible this year” and that it had started its domestic process to ratify it. The US is eager for the two countries to join.
4. Pakistan asked to punish Pathankot attack perpetrators
Treating the attack on the Pathankot airbase on par with the Mumbai attacks, Obama sent a clear message to Pakistan, asking it to punish the perpetrators. “They [the two leaders] called for Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai and 2016 Pathankot terrorist attacks to justice,” a joint statement issued after the Obama-Modi meeting at the White House said.
During the meeting, Modi and Obama acknowledged the continued threat posed to human civilisation by terrorism and condemned the recent terrorist incidents from Paris to Pathankot, from Brussels to Kabul, the statement said.
They also committed to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from extremist groups such as “al-Qaeda, Daesh/ISIL, Jaish-e Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, D Company [under world don Dawood Ibrahim’s firm] and their affiliates, including through deepened collaboration on UN terrorist designations.”
5. India, US ink deal to boost defence, counter-terror cooperation
India and the US inked an agreement in the sphere of defence cooperation and counter-terrorism after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama. The agreement opens the doors to exchange of terrorist-screening information between the Multi-Agency Centre/Intelligence Bureau of India and the Terrorist Screening Center of the US, under which the two sides shall “provide each other access to terrorism screening information through the designated contact points, subject to domestic laws and regulations”.
The arrangement will enhance the counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries, said a statement.
6. Agreement to step up conservation efforts
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed to enhance co-operation in Wildlife Conservation and Combating Wildlife Trafficking in areas such as Wildlife Forensics and Conservation Genetics, Natural World Heritage Conservation and Nature Interpretation, and Conservation Awareness.
The two countries also agreed to improve bilateral effort on Energy Security, Clean Energy and Climate Change through increased engagement and further joint initiatives for promoting sustainable growth.
7. Expedited clearance for entry into the US
An MoU between the Consular, Passport and Visa Division of India’s ministry of external affairs and the US Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security for the Development of an International Expedited Traveler Initiative - the Global Entry Programme, which is a US Customs and Border Protection programme.
This programme allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers upon arrival in the US. After joint scrutiny and clearance by both countries, the approved Indian travellers will be extended the facility of expedited entry into the US through automatic kiosks at select airports, the statement said.
8. Activists raise India’s poor record in human trafficking
Human rights campaigners urged the US President to press India to strengthen its anti-trafficking laws and deliver justice to victims. India has the most slaves in the world with more than 18 million people trapped in debt bondage, forced into marriage, sold to brothels or born into servitude, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index.
“More people are enslaved in India than in any other country in the world, with millions of Indian men, women and children trapped in debt bondage and forced to perform strenuous work,” said Amy Sobel of the Washington-based Human Rights First pressure group. Forty percent of the world’s estimated 45.8 million slaves are in India, although the scourge exists in all 167 nations surveyed in last month’s Global Slavery Index, according to researchers behind the list.
Indian officials, however, have pointed to a slew of initiatives taken by the Modi government over the last two years that was proof that New Delhi was taking the issue seriously. A draft of the first comprehensive anti-human trafficking law, which provides for more shelters, a rehabilitation fund, fast-track courts to ensure speedy trials, a federal investigative agency to boost convictions, was released recently.