Obama backs India’s solar goals, seeks support for climate talks

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Obama and Modi agree to limit US liability in case of nuclear disaster.

US industrial interests took centre-stage at the start of Barack Obama’s visit to India as he and the prime minister, Narendra Modi, outlined a deal to limit the legal liability of US suppliers in the event of a nuclear power plant catastrophe.

President Barack Obama throws rose petals as he participates in a wreath laying ceremony at the Raj Ghat Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, New Delhi, India on Sunday. Thirty years after an infamous chemical leak killed thousands at Union Carbide’s factory in Bhopal, the threat of tough Indian compensation laws has frustrated US hopes of an export boom in the energy sector – despite an agreement by former US president George W Bush to share civil nuclear technology in 2005. Obama said the two countries have reached a “breakthrough understanding” that would make it easier for U.S. and foreign firms to invest in Indian nuclear power plants. After pressure from US diplomats, the Indian government was thought to have agreed a state-backed insurance scheme that would cap the exposure of nuclear suppliers and open the door to billions of dollars of new contracts.

The understanding, though short on specifics, moves toward resolving one of a number of nuclear-related issues that have hamstrung the countries for years and has prevented the implementation of a landmark nuclear deal reached during the George W. To fuel its rapidly industrialising economy, India hopes to increase the share of electricity generated from nuclear sources from 4% to 25% by 2050, and the issue has taken on added significance after separate environmental talks failed to agree carbon reduction targets of the sort the US reached with China.

Modi said he supported efforts to tackle climate change, but pointedly refused to accept comparisons with the recent US deal with China, which India views as further ahead in its industrialisation phase. “We expressed hope for a successful Paris conference on climate change this year,” said the Indian prime minister. “The agreement that has been concluded between the US and China does not impose pressure on us; India is an independent country. In a joint appearance following their meetings, both men went out of their way to illustrate how their personal chemistry was yielding progress on various fronts, from defense, to trade to energy issues. “Barack and I have formed a bond, a friendship,” Modi said. “We can laugh and joke and talk easily on the phone.

But climate change and global warning itself is huge pressure.” The two leaders trumpeted more limited deals on air pollution and renewable energy that the US president said would help “promote clean energy and confront climate change”. The chemistry that has brought Barack and me closer has also brought Washington and Delhi closer.” Obama said: “Your election and your strong personal commitment to the US-India relationship gives us an opportunity to further energize these efforts.” Under hazy skies Sunday, Modi greeted Obama with a hug on the airport tarmac and offered an elaborate welcome at the country’s sprawling presidential palace. The White House said the agreement was reached through a combination of insurance pools and an assurance that reducing the liability would be within the framework of the 2010 agreement.

Smog is a growing problem in many Indian cities and was evident as Air Force One arrived earlier on Sunday in Delhi – a city that has also been heavily disrupted by security cordons. On Monday, Obama was to be the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day festivities, making him the first U.S. president to attend the anniversary of the enactment of country’s democratic constitution. Taking some of the luster off the trip, Obama is cutting his trip short to go to Saudi Arabia Tuesday to pay respects to the royal family following the death of King Abdullah. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh staked his first term on the landmark civil nuclear agreement, which ended India’s three decades of nuclear isolation and held the promise of billions in sales and thousands of jobs for U.S. energy companies.

Later, Obama and Modi were seen supping tea during three hours of talks in the cool gardens of Hyderabad House, a state guest facility in the centre of Delhi, before taking brief questions from reporters during a press conference. During that time, India’s enthusiasm for nuclear power was dampened by the nuclear disaster in Japan and the difficulty of securing land on which to build nuclear reactors. Nuclear power today represents is only about 2 percent of India’s total installed power capacity. “The Indian government is going to town saying breakthrough, breakthrough, but there are a lot of questions that still remain,” said R.

On Yemen, which has been a close U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism, Obama denied that the political vacuum created there last week has affected U.S. counterterrorism operations inside the Middle Eastern country. Instead, US lobbyists and commentators have stressed nuclear power’s role in reducing India’s dependency on coal and other polluting energy sources. “We’re very cognisant of the fact that India has suffered the worst industrial tragedy [at Bhopal] but at the same time, environmental degradation is another form of industrial tragedy and nuclear is a cleaner source,” added Rossow. “The family that’s heating their home by using a dung cake and doesn’t have piping, right, they’re slowly killing themselves. Obama said recent news reports to the contrary are inaccurate. “We continue to go after high-value targets inside of Yemen and continue to maintain the pressure that’s required to keep the American people safe,” he said.

The normally bustling streets of New Delhi were empty and the sidewalks cleared by Indian police as Obama’s motorcade sped from the palace to Gandhi’s memorial. Earlier, Obama walked in his socks into a walled courtyard to lay a large white wreath at the site where Gandhi, India’s independence icon, was cremated. The two men talked over a lavish dinner, even though Modi was on a religious fast, and visited the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, where they invoked Mohandas Gandhi.

Obama spread dirt around a sapling, watering it with a silver pitcher and said repeatedly, “big and strong.” His friendship with Modi came as somewhat of a surprise. It came at a time when India felt overlooked by the administration’s focus on other Asian countries — and as the U.S. realized that it needs India as a counterweight to China. “I think from the very beginning, there were quite a few things that actually led to that personal affinity and that ability to build rapport,” said Phil Reiner, the Senior Director at the National Security Council for South Asia. In 2005 the State Department revoked his visa on grounds that he had violated religious freedom by not doing enough to stop Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 while he was chief minister of the state of Gujarat.

Modi employed campaign tactics modeled after Obama’s, using social media and micro-targeting and displaying posters akin to the one Shepard Fairey made of Obama. In August, Modi chanted Obama’s campaign phrase, “Yes We Can,” at a rally. “In some ways Modi is the most American-like Indian politican there’s been in years,” said Tanvi Madan, a fellow and director of the India Project at the Brookings Institution.

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