NEW DELHI: In an extraordinary show of bonhomie between two best buddies, India and the United States achieved the breakthrough to finally let the civil nuclear deal take off from the ground after a delay of six years and allow US firms to sell nuclear reactors to India, even as both countries agreed to jointly develop advanced defence projects.
From the bear hug at the airport to the walk and tea on the lawns of Hyderabad House, the bonhomie was genuine, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi affectionately calling his guest “Barack”, while US President Obama spoke about sharing notes about their sleeping patterns. The show of warmth began at the airport, with Obama embracing Modi in a warm hug after he landed at about 10 am from Air Force One. They met again at the Rashtrapati Bhawan forecourt for the official welcome ceremony, before Obama visited Rajghat to pay tributes at the memorial of his idol Mahatma Gandhi.
The elegant colonial period Hyderabad House was the setting for Modi and Obama to demonstrate their renewed friendship, as they conversed alone among lotus ponds. Modi, who had used his tea-seller origins effectively during the poll campaign, poured out a cup of tea for Obama.
While the imagery was highly symbolic, the summit outcome was substantive, with the nuclear deal finally in the bag. And Modi was not shy boasting that while the deal may have been the brainchild of the previous UPA government, he had finally got it executed.
“I’m pleased that six years after we signed our bilateral agreement, we are moving towards commercial cooperation, consistent with our law, our international legal obligations, and tactical and commercial viability,” said Modi, as he stood side-by-side with Obama during the packed media interaction in Hyderabad House.
The importance of finally getting it done cannot be overestimated, especially as Modi himself described the civil nuclear agreement as the “centerpiece of our transformed relationship”.
Obama also used the word “breakthrough”, indicating that implementing the nuclear deal was not just a transactional matter, but had a higher import in relations. “This is an important step that shows how we can work together to elevate our relationship,” he said.
That political will was required to reach the conclusion over the nitty-gritties was accepted by the foreign secretary.
“I will see that the political leadership played a key role. It was under specific political direction that we set out to find the solution to the concerns expressed and that’s why we have progress,” said Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh.
She emphatically asserted that now the policy hurdles for US firms to take part in India’s civil nuclear regime has been removed. “Let me underline. We have reached an understanding. The deal is done,” she added.