01/26/2015, 00.00
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Obama and Modi reach nuclear deal without giving details

After years of deadlock, the two powers take an "important step" to implement an earlier 2005 US decision to provide India reactor components. The US leader shortens his visit to fly to Saudi Arabia. China cast its shadow over the meeting.

Delhi (AsiaNews) - US President Barack Obama and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended a ten-year deadlock on an India-US nuclear pact, hailing a new era of friendship between the world's two largest democracies.

Modi, India's nationalist prime minister, blacklisted for years by Washington for his involvement in the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, greeted Obama with a bear hug as the US leader stepped off Air Force One. Afterwards, he trumpeted the "chemistry" with his fellow leader.

For his part, the US president said that their friendship reflects a natural affinity between the two countries, who share a desire to limit Chinese influence in Asia.

Notwithstanding the nuclear deal, which was made public without any details provided, the two leaders did not make any major announcements, except for a 'Declaration of friendship' and the establishment of a hotline and regular summits.

For Modi, Obama's decision to visit India twice during his tenure - a first in the history of the White House - is of great symbolic value.

As a sign of the personal feeling between the two leaders, Obama and Modi had signed an editorial for the Washington Post last year, and will take part in a radio phone-in show tomorrow.

At a press conference, the two leaders stressed their personal friendship and the "shared values" of their two peoples.

Rhetoric aside, this is a huge step forward. Two years ago, US flags were burnt in the Indian capital over a diplomatic dispute.

For its part, the US Congress had added Modi on its list of undesirables because of similar popular protests and his nationalist and racist views towards non-Hindus.

The summit seems to have swept away such misunderstandings.

For New Delhi, this is an opportunity to focus on the boosting trade and investment in a number of sectors (industry, nuclear and renewable energy, defence, environmental protection). Indeed, both leaders want to remove obstacles to bilateral trade.

Security and terrorism, and a possible common strategy to contain China's increasing influence in China, are also on the agenda.

The White House has openly talked about the "need" to confront Beijing, by force if necessary, in order to limit its expansion.

India has tried to get the Chinese to invest more in the Indian economy to reduce its large trade deficit with its northern neighbour.

Contrary to plans, the US president will not end his three-day visit to India tomorrow with a sightseeing tour of the country.

Instead, Air Force One is set to leave for Riyadh, where Obama will meet the new Saudi king, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, head of the richest and most powerful US ally in the Middle East.

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