Washington: India and US have reached the first commercial agreement on civil nuclear power, five years after a landmark deal between the two countries was clinched.

Addressing a joint media interaction after talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Barack Obama disclosed that the two countries have sealed the agreement. "We've made enormous progress on the issue of civil nuclear power, and in fact, have been able to achieve just in the last few days an agreement on the first commercial agreement between a US company and India on civil nuclear power," Obama said.

India's nuclear operator NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited) and US firm Westinghouse have signed an agreement that will pave the way for setting up an atomic plant in India. However, there was no word on the tough nuclear liability clause in the Indian laws over which US firms had strong objections.

There was a major uproar in India last week over the agreement because of apprehensions that it entailed bypassing the Civil Nuclear Liability Law in place in the country by waiving the operator's right to recourse with the supplier. Reiterating his commitment for strong ties, Obama said India is not just a regional, but also a global power.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reciprocated the feelings, saying US is an indispensable partner for India. "India, as a significant not just regional power but world power, has worked closely with us on a whole range of issues from climate change to how we can help feed the world, alleviate poverty and deal with disease," Obama told reporters in his Oval Office following their hour-long meeting.

Praising the Prime Minister for his leadership in strengthening India-US ties, Obama said Manmohan Singh has been a great friend and partner to the United States and to him personally. "Across the board, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been an outstanding partner," Obama said, adding that India continues to grow at an amazing rate, but obviously there are a lot of people in India that are still trapped in poverty.

He said US is a strong partner to help India realize that vision because if there is a strong India, that is good for the world and it's ultimately good for US. In his remarks, Manmohan Singh said Obama has imparted a powerful impetus to that process of the two countries being on the same page.

"I've always believed that India and America are indispensable partners. During the time that I have been Prime Minister, and particularly during the time that President Obama and I have worked together, I think President Obama has made an outstanding contribution to strengthening, widening and deepening of our cooperation in diverse ways," he said.

Manmohan Singh said India and America are working together to build on the cooperation and widening, and deepening it in diverse directions.

Obama personally walks down to see off Indian PM         

In the rarest of the rare gesture, US President Barack Obama personally walked down to the White House portico to see off Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after a meeting with him at the Oval Office on Friday.

Those familiar with the strict White House protocol said that this is rarest of the rare gesture by the President, which they have not seen in the recent past. Officials in the past have noted that Obama has great respect for the Prime Minister not only as a great leader and a statesman but also as an economist. The two leaders have enjoyed a great personal equation.

Obama had hosted his presidency's first State Dinner for the Prime Minister in November 2009 and has described India and United States as the indispensable partners of the 21st century. In his remarks, Obama praised the Prime Minister.

"He has been a great friend and partner to the United States and to me personally during his tenure as Prime Minister of India," Obama said. "Across the board, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been an outstanding partner," he added.

"Thank you so much for all your efforts to continue to strengthen ties between our two countries," Obama told Manmohan Singh. Manmohan Singh too praised Obama for his commitment for India US relationship. "During the time that I have been Prime Minister, and particularly during the time that President Obama and I have worked together, I think President Obama has made an outstanding contribution to strengthening, widening and deepening of our cooperation in diverse fields," Singh said.

"In the President, the United States has a leader who realizes and recognizes the contribution that a resurgent India can make not only to fighting poverty, but also to global peace and prosperity," Manmohan Singh said. Meanwhile, a group of Kashmiris and Sikhs held a protest demonstration outside the White House, even after the Prime Minister left after his meeting with Obama.

(Agencies)

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