PRESIDENT Barack Obama said “the stars are aligned” to enable the United States and India to forge a global partnership in an interview published today (January 23) ahead of his visit to New New Delhi.
Obama, who begins an unprecedented second visit by a serving US president on Sunday (January 25), told the India Today magazine that he hoped to make “concrete progress” with prime minister Narendra Modi on a range of issues.
But while outlining areas where the world’s two biggest democracies share common goals, Obama put pressure on Modi to do more to help secure a global climate pact.
“I firmly believe that the relationship between the United States and India can be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century,” Obama said in the interview conducted by email.
“We’re natural partners. As two great democracies, our strength is rooted in the power and potential of our citizens. As entrepreneurial societies, we’re global leaders in innovation, science and technology.
“That’s why, when I addressed the Indian Parliament on my last visit (in 2010), I outlined my vision for how we could become global partners meeting global challenges… I’d like to think that the stars are aligned to finally realise the vision I outlined.”
While observers do not expect any major policy breakthroughs on the three-day trip, both sides say the invitation to Obama for Monday’s (January 26) Republic Day celebrations emphasises a new closeness in sometimes tetchy ties.
Modi was effectively blacklisted by the US until last February when it became clear he had a real prospect of winning elections against the ruling Congress party.
Modi was chief minister of Gujarat when communal violence erupted in 2002, leading him to be be shunned by Washington and Europe.
But since coming to power, Modi has displayed no ill feeling towards Washington with both countries keen to counter-balance the rise of China.
Climate change however has been a source of friction, with India insisting it will not sign any deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions that threatens its growth at UN climate talks in Paris in December.
It has stuck to its guns even though China and the US have unveiled emissions pledges. India, which suffers regular electricity cuts, is heavily dependent on coal-fired power plants.
“I believe that part of being global partners means working together to meet one of the world’s urgent challenges - climate change,” said Obama.
“Even as we recognise that our economies are at different stages of development, we can come together with other nations and achieve a strong global agreement this year in Paris to fight climate change.”
Speaking to the NDTV network on Thursday (January 22), India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley said the two sides had “different approaches to climate change”.