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U.S. And India Make Climate Change Announcement On First Day Of Obama's Trip


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath. President Barack Obama arrived in India today for a three-day visit that aims to reinvigorate the U.S.-India relationship. The new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to advance India's stature in the world, and evolving stronger ties with the U.S. appears to be part of that strategy. NPR's Julie McCarthy joins us from New Delhi. Julie, what did the two men accomplish today?

JULIE MCCARTHY: Well, apart from the pomp and circumstances that attended President Obama's second visit, there was substance. The president and Prime Minister Modi both stressed the importance of cooperating on climate change, Arun. You know, the Himalayas are melting and India stands to be very hard hit by this. And Obama's also very keen to deliver a global agreement in Paris later this year. But for India that's a tall order. It's the world's third-largest carbon polluter after China and the U.S. and its industrial development is just getting underway. So the big question here is whether India can find an alternative model for growth that is less toxic. It plans to increase its solar capacity by a huge amount, but the most talked about breakthrough was a nuclear deal between the two sides that would clear the way for American companies to come into India and build nuclear plants - a carbon-free form of energy. Now, reducing carbon emissions, as you know, is a delicate diplomatic tightrope for states. And it could only be helped here by two leaders who seem to have a real rapport.

RATH: And take us through the day. It sounds like the two men are developing a bit of a bromance.

MCCARTHY: (Laughter) Indeed. The most telling moment, I think, was when they were alone, actually. It was a walkabout through the grounds of Hyderabad House, which is a manicured government building. It's beautiful and it seemed to set the tone. It was very cordial. It was very informal. The two sat alone in this setting and drank tea, and Modi poured, by the way. He was very animated, laughing, the president was smiling. And Mr. Obama seemed to appreciate this relaxed approach to work and he was ready to take the tradition home with him. Here's what he had to say afterwards.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Prime Minister Modi, thank you for hosting me, including our chai pe charcha.


OBAMA: We need more of those in the White House.

MCCARTHY: Chai pe charcha is basically the talk over tea. It's Modi's specialty, right? And so is this orchestrated PR behind the tea ceremony, which was viewed by millions of people on TV who have a pretty big curiosity about these two, who are, in some ways, you know, the odd couple - the Indian religious nationalist and the American constitutional scholar and Nobel Prize winner.

RATH: Julie, this president has got a lot on his plate. Do we have a sense of why he is putting so much stock into India making this second trip?

MCCARTHY: That's right. You know, you can only conclude that he sees the opportunity to re-energize relations with a country that is hugely strategic in a volatile part of the world. India is also interested in taking its place on the global stage. And they have a leader in Modi who is determined to expand India's influence, and Obama seems to be all for it. India's got a $2 trillion economy and it's positioned to overtake China's growth, according to the IMF, next year. So the U.S. and President Obama see problems, certainly, but see great potential here.

RATH: NPR's Julie McCarthy in New Delhi. Julie, thank you.

MCCARTHY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.