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Obama, Singh Reaffirm Close Ties, Discuss Syria, Iran

President Barack Obama shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept. 27, 2013.
President Barack Obama shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept. 27, 2013.
— At the White House Friday, President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed global issues including Syria and Iran, and the U.S.-India relationship.  

Including a visit by Singh in 2009, and talks during Obama's visit to India in 2010, Friday's meeting was the third formal summit for the two leaders.

They have worked to strengthen economic and trade ties and ensure progress under the 2008 U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement that paved the way for full civil nuclear cooperation.  At this meeting they also covered counterterrorism cooperation and global issues, and diplomatic efforts for a U.N. Security Council resolution to ensure that Syria's chemical weapons are removed and destroyed.

Obama called these efforts a potential victory.

"The fact that we now have a framework that will be voted on perhaps as soon as today, perhaps over the weekend or Monday that would be legally binding, that would be verifiable and enforceable, where there would be consequences for Syria's failure to meet what has been set forth in this resolution, I think is a potentially huge victory for the international community," he said.

Obama said he is hopeful, but concerns remain about Syrian compliance and about technical issues of removing chemical weapons while Syria's civil war continues.

Singh complimented Obama "for giving diplomacy yet another chance."  He also mentioned talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations over its nuclear program, saying India has a strong interest in stability in West Asia and the Middle East.

On U.S.-India issues, Obama referred to "enormous progress" on civil nuclear power and pointed to a recent deal between the Westinghouse company and India's nuclear power company.  

But neither spoke in any detail about this, nor was there mention of frustrations in the U.S. business community about market access issues, or debate in India about details of a nuclear liability law approved in 2010.

Obama said India and the U.S. have a shared interest in making sure Afghanistan "continues on its path to a peaceful democratic country."

He thanked Singh for "consistent interest" in improving cooperation with Pakistan, but the Indian leader spoke about India's concerns regarding Pakistan.

"I explained to President Obama the difficulties that we face given the fact that the epicenter of terror still remains focused in Pakistan, and I look forward to meeting with President Nawaz Sharif even though the expectations have to be toned down, given the terror arm which is still active in our subcontinent," Singh said.

The White House announced this past week that Obama will meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif next month.

Singh thanked Obama for "all he has done to strengthen and deepen cooperation," adding the president understands India's struggle to rid itself of poverty, ignorance and disease still afflicting millions.

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