Obama Begins 3-Day Visit To India
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. President Obama is in India today, just in time for that country's Republic Day celebrations. He'll attend a state dinner tonight and a big parade tomorrow. He and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi met for several hours this morning. The two men say they reached a breakthrough that could encourage more clean energy in that country.
NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president. He joins us now. So Scott, one of Obama's big agenda items on this trip has been - is climate change. What did he and the Prime Minister have to say about that issue?
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Rachel, India is the world's third biggest carbon polluter after China and the United States. So President Obama sees India's cooperation as vital to achieving any kind of global agreement to curb greenhouse gases. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think India's voice is very important on this issue. Perhaps no country could potentially be more affected by the impacts of climate change, and no country is going to be more important in moving forward a stronger agreement than India.
HORSLEY: So far India is not making a China-style commitment to cap its use of coal or its carbon emissions. In fact, the country is expanding its use of coal as it tries to provide electricity to some 300 million Indians who don't now have it. But the Obama administration hopes to work with India to encourage more carbon free forms of energy, including solar and nuclear power. And today the two governments reached a deal to remove some of the obstacles that have been preventing American companies from helping India to develop its nuclear power plants.
MARTIN: OK. So what's the Indian take on all this?
HORSLEY: Well, it's important to remember the average Indian generates only about one tenth as much carbon pollution as the average American does. And what's more, India's cumulative emissions since 1990 are only about a quarter of the United States. So in some ways, India is in the position of the guest who's shown up late to the dinner party just as the plates are being taken away and is now being asked to help clean the pots and pans. Prime Minister Modi said today India will not be pressured by other countries. But speaking through an interpreter, he did say he does feel the pressure of rising temperatures. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI: (Through interpreter) Global warming is a huge pressure. And all those who think about a better life and a better world for the future generations, those who are concerned about this, then it is their duty and their conscience. They would want to give a better lifestyle to the future generations.
MARTIN: Scott, I understand President Obama and Prime Minister Modi also took part in a wreath laying ceremony at a memorial for Mahatma Gandhi. And I take it there were some echoes there of an earlier meeting in Washington.
HORSLEY: That's right, Rachel. When Modi was in Washington last fall, he and Obama took a walking tour of the Martin Luther King Memorial there. Of course Gandhi was an inspiration for Dr. King. And that tour allowed the two men to spend some quality time together, and they seemed to hit it off. Today, in New Delhi, they took a walk through a garden. They stopped to have some tea in front of the television cameras. It was obviously a staged photo op, but it seemed to be more than just that. They had a long and animated conversation, and these two men do seem to share some common traits. They both come from humble backgrounds. They both rose to positions of power atop Democratic governments after some very energetic campaigns. And they seem to have some real personal chemistry. Obama says he hopes to translate that affection into a strong global partnership.
MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent, Scott Horsley, traveling with the president. Thanks so much, Scott.
HORSLEY: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.