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NEW DELHI - Seizing on their personal bond, President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sunday they had made progress on nuclear cooperation and climate change, with Obama declaring a "breakthrough understanding" in efforts to free U.S. investment in nuclear energy development in India.
Obama and Modi expressed hope that a landmark 2008 nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India could begin to bear fruit. "We are committed to moving towards full implementation and this is an important step that shows how we can work together to elevate our relationship," Obama said.
Earlier, India’s recently-elected leader greeted Obama with a hug.
The two countries have been at an impasse over U.S. insistence on tracking fissile material it supplies to India and over Indian liability provisions that have discouraged U.S. firms from capitalizing on a 2008 civil nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India.
"In our judgment, the Indians have moved sufficiently on these issues to give us assurances that the issues are resolved," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser.
In a joint appearance following meetings, both men went out of their way to illustrate how their personal chemistry was yielding progress on various fronts, from defense, to trade to energy issues.
"Barack and I have formed a bond, a friendship," Modi said. "We can laugh and joke and talk easily on the phone. The chemistry that has brought Barack and me closer has also brought Washington and Delhi closer."
Obama said: "Your election and your strong personal commitment to the US-India relationship gives us an opportunity to further energize these efforts."
On Monday, Obama was to be the guest of honor at India's Republic Day festivities, making him the first U.S. president to attend the anniversary of the enactment of country's democratic constitution.