Agreements in climate change, defence likely during Modi-Obama meet

New Delhi, Sep 22 (IANS) Some promising outcomes are expected in the field of climate change when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama meet for their summit next week, besides in defence and education.

During their last summit in January in New Delhi, issues related to clean energy and climate change had dominated the discussions between the two leaders, as the US envoy Richard Verma later said in a talk. Both sides had then issued a joint statement, in which both Modi and Obama “made a personal commitment to work together to pursue a strong global climate agreement in Paris”.

With climate change in the global focus ahead of the climate change negotiations in Paris in December, something tangible is expected on the subject when the two leaders meet at the White House.

Modi has called for a “saffron revolution” to focus on renewable energy to meet India’s growing energy demand. The government has also announced an ambitious goal of 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022, which will require $100 billion in investment.

The Obama administration in August announced the Clean Power Plan, in a major step toward fighting climate change. The plan charts a course to reduce carbon pollution from US power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, while boosting clean energy markets.

India has been loth to commit to specific emissions targets. Coal continues to be a primary energy source in India, where large sections of the population continues to live without power.

In November last year, during Obama’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, both countries had reached a major agreement, according to which China agreed to cap its emissions by 2030. The US has committed to reducing its emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Defence is another field where both sides are likely to make some announcements.

Both sides earlier this year inked a 10-year defence framework pact envisaging joint development and manufacture of defence equipment and technology including jet engines, aircraft carrier design and construction.

The framework agreement was decided during the visit of Obama in January and inked in June during the visit of US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter to India.

Both sides are to expedite talks on cooperating on jet engines and building aircraft carriers, with India keen to gain access to state-of-the-art US technology for its planned carrier.

Keen to push forward defence ties with India, the Pentagon has set up a first-ever country special cell to accelerate the process of co-development and co-production of hi-tech military equipment in the country.

The India Rapid Reaction Cell (IRRC) is headed by Keith Webster, director, International Cooperation Office of the Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Over the last few years, the US has signed $10 billion in contracts for defence sales to India, US envoy Richard Verma said last week at the 11th Indo-US Economic Summit here, adding that it was time to take the defence ties higher.

Education is set to be another field that is likely to see some deliverables.

The number of Indian students applying to study in the US this year has increased by nearly 40 percent over the past year to 130,000, Verma said in another address at the East West Centre in Hawaii last week.

He said both sides hope to increase the number of US students studying in India and “to forge links between our institutions of higher learning that will generate the new approaches that will fuel our partnership… we are looking beyond traditional relationships between universities to also incorporate the community colleges and vocational and technical institutes that will power our economies in the decades to come”.

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