President Obama and Indian Prime Minister to Meet In Attempt to Hash Out Differences

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the University Of Kansas at the Anschutz Pavillion on January 22, 2015 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the University Of Kansas at the Anschutz Pavillion on January 22, 2015 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

Differences that the United States and India have been grappling with for years are expected to dominate talks between President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi when they meet in New Delhi next week.

Climate Change

India is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States. But Indian officials have consistently prioritized economic growth and the eradication of poverty over reducing carbon emissions.

Prakash Javadekar, India’s environment minister, has indicated that the burden of addressing climate change should rest squarely on developed, industrialized nations. The power minister, Piyush Goyal, has aggressively pursued coal mining as a way to provide power to nearly 300 million Indians who have no access to electricity. The country, which has the fifth-largest coal reserves in the world, plans to double its coal production by 2019.

Mr. Obama has made an agreement on climate change a policy priority for his second term. But American officials played down expectations of a breakthrough on climate change, saying they were at an earlier stage with Indian officials than they were with Chinese officials before striking a deal last year with Beijing. The potential, the officials said, seemed worth another trip to India, making Mr. Obama the first American president to visit twice during his tenure.

Mr. Javadekar said during a meeting on climate change last year in Lima, Peru, that the Indian government would submit a proposal by June that would show how it plans to lower the rate at which India produces pollution.

Mr. Modi has promised to build an array of solar power stations, and projects have already begun, taking advantage of India’s favorable weather conditions, with more than 300 sunny days a year. The United States has developed technology on solar panels, and a State Department official expressed interest in coming to an agreement on solar power projects.

Nuclear Energy

The United States and India have long been engaged in a complicated dance over nuclear energy. In 2008, the United States Senate gave final approval to a deal allowing sales to India of nuclear power equipment and fuel for civilian energy production. But American companies have not been able to benefit from the deal, partly because of India’s nuclear liability law, passed in 2010, which places a financial burden on contractors in the event of an accident.

American critics of the deal said it was too permissive and could allow India to continue to stockpile nuclear weapons while failing to ratify the nonproliferation treaty.

Mr. Modi has expressed interest in resolving the disputes that stalled the civilian energy deal with the United States. India’s vast energy needs are hardly being met by nuclear energy — it has 20 reactors, just nine of which are operating at capacity. India aims to drastically increase its nuclear energy capacity, and it has been pursuing agreements with other partners, including Japan and Australia.

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SOURCE: The New York Times
Nida Najar

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