The U.S. and India agreed to forge closer defense and security ties at a White House meeting between President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the talks didn’t produce a breakthrough on disagreements that have hobbled ties in recent years.
Officials said they hoped Mr. Modi’s visit served to shrug off inertia and move beyond the shadow of past problems, as the two sides agreed to a modest range of infrastructure and finance partnerships that could provide building blocks for future advances.
The visit on Tuesday ended without an extended joint appearance or news conference featuring the two leaders, one indicator of difficulties between the two countries, which include India’s move to block a trade agreement at the World Trade Organization.
Mr. Modi said he expects the countries to soon find a solution to the WTO dispute that takes India’s food security concerns into account.
Another issue involved U.S. concerns about India’s nuclear liability law, which has prevented progress on a 2005 civil nuclear deal that had been meant to transform U.S.-India ties but became a symbol of their stagnation. On that, the two sides agreed on a new interagency group to try to iron out differences, officials said.
Despite months of groundwork laid by cabinet secretaries and other top officials, the visit lacked any big-ticket announcements, such as those resulting from Mr. Modi’s earlier meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who pledged $35 billion and $20 billion respectively in investments over five years. Washington usually leaves major investments to the private sector.
However, the visit erased any lingering question over Mr. Modi’s status in the U.S., which revoked his visa in 2005 over his alleged role in religious riots in his home state of Gujarat in India in 2002.Mr. Modi visited a monument to Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, and the two leaders visited the monument to Martin Luther King Jr.
“The president really did enjoy the opportunity to visit with Prime Minister Modi,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said following the meeting.
For Mr. Modi, the most crucial parts of the trip may have been his meetings with heads of businesses in New York and Washington. At a speech to U.S. and Indian businesses in Washington on Tuesday, Mr. Modi said that since taking office, he had embarked on a quest to build confidence in the Indian economy among investors, promising them less red tape, adequate infrastructure and an easy business environment.