WASHINGTON - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after meeting President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday that India and US are ‘natural global partners’, and that American defence firms were ‘especially welcome’ to help develop the Indian defence industry.

Modi, who also had informal talks with Obama at a dinner Monday night, also said India was serious about resolving issues preventing US companies from developing nuclear energy in India. He vowed to intensify cooperation on counterterrorism and intelligence at a time of growing concern about extremist movements in the Near East.

The two countries would consult closely on climate-change issues as nations around the world launch a new set of negotiations to agree on emissions cuts next year, he said.

India has frustrated the Obama administration and other leaders around the world in recent months by not signing off on a WTO agreement to smooth the flow of trade. Indian officials have said they need assurances that the country’s food stockpiling programme won’t run afoul of WTO rules before agreeing on the trade-facilitation pact. On Tuesday, Modi said he expects to find a solution to the impasse, possibly soon.

The meeting comes as the Obama administration seeks to reinvigorate stalled relations as part of its regional strategy to balance the rise of China. US officials were expected to brief reporters on the meeting with Mr Modi later Tuesday.

Outside the White House, hundreds of Kashmiri and Sikh demonstrators gathered in a park where they denounced Modi’s human rights record and for targeting minorities. In one section, a group of Indians also staged a rally backing Modi.

US officials said both sides are eager to leave behind a fraught relationship between Modi and the US, which denied him a visa in 2005 over his alleged role in religious riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was chief minister there. The US ended its restrictions on Modi only earlier this year, when it became clear that he was a front-runner to win the election.

A White House spokesman said Obama did raise human rights issues with the Indian leader, and underscored the need for an inclusive government.

Obama and Modi discussed trade and energy, and hope to lay the foundation for a closer security partnership. Both sides have acknowledged that the US-India relationship, which Obama once described as “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century,” has fallen short of its goals, having been mired in a bog of disputes over topics from trade and intellectual property rights to climate change.

“We are fully committed that helping India in achieving its domestic ambitions of a strong economy, in enabling a strong, capable and confident India at home, will also serve the US and global interests in having a strong and capable partner to address regional and global challenges as well,” a senior White House official said.

Modo came to the US fresh from a flurry of engagements in Asia, including meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he has warm relations, and President Xi Jinping of China.

China pledged $20 billion in investments over the next five years, but the visit was overshadowed by a tense face-off on the countries’ disputed Himalayan border after India said Chinese soldiers tried to build a road on Indian territory.

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on Monday, Mr. Modi said the jury is still out on whether the 21st century would be that of China or India, but said that India was better poised for success given its rare combination of democracy, a large, young population and vast demand. On his five-day visit to the US, Modi has reached out to US businesses, promising less red tape and more opportunities to invest in Indian infrastructure and industry.

Modi also inserted India into the global discussion on terrorism by condemning Islamic State’s activities, including the beheadings of foreign journalists. He stopped short of committing India’s participation to the US-led efforts against militants in Iraq and Syria, however.

Obama and Modi, who met for two hours at a dinner on Monday evening, issued an extended vision statement, entitled ‘Chalein Saath Saath’ (Forward Together We Go), and in a surprise move the two leaders essayed a joint editorial that appeared on Tuesday on the website of a prominent newspaper.

The opinion piece in The Washington Post echoed the “Vision Statement,” which did not exactly announce a formal US-India alliance, but is certainly redolent of a transcendental partnership aimed at elevating the bilateral relationship to an even higher stage than it enjoys now. At its core, the statement indicates a deep and abiding security partnership.

“Our strategic partnership is a joint endeavour for prosperity and peace. Through intense consultations, joint exercises, and shared technology, our security cooperation will make the region and the world safe and secure. Together, we will combat terrorist threats and keep our homelands and citizens safe from attacks, while we respond expeditiously to humanitarian disasters and crisis,” it said.

“Our natural and unique partnership can help shape international security and peace for years to come.”

“But the specter of what many think will be left unspoken — human rights and civil society issues — hangs over the visit,” a separate report in The Washington Post said. In their opinion piece, Obama and Modi wrote, “Today our partnership is robust, reliable and enduring, and it is expanding. Our relationship involves more bilateral collaboration than ever before — not just at the federal level but also at the State and local levels, between our two militaries, private sectors and civil society.”

“Still, the true potential of our relationship has yet to be fully realised.  The advent of a new government in India is a natural opportunity to broaden and deepen our relationship.” “While India benefits from the growth generated by US investment and technical partnerships, the United States benefits from a stronger, more prosperous India.

In turn, the region and the world benefit from the greater stability and security that our friendship creates. We remain committed to the larger effort to integrate South Asia and connect it with markets and people in Central and Southeast Asia.”

The opinion piece also suggested upcoming agreements, overt or covert, while talking about the two sides supporting an open and inclusive rules-based global order, in which India assumes greater multilateral responsibility, including in a reformed United Nations Security Council.

“At the United Nations and beyond, our close coordination will lead to a more secure and just world,” it said in what would constitute a massive reversal of past form in which the two countries have voted against or been pitted against each other more than 90 per cent of the time.

Deals on climate change and energy were also hinted at.

“Climate change threatens both our countries, and we will join together to mitigate its impact and adapt to our changing environment. We will address the consequences of unchecked pollution through cooperation by our governments, science and academic communities. We will partner to ensure that both countries have affordable, clean, reliable, and diverse sources of energy, including through our efforts to bring American-origin nuclear power technologies to India,” the statement, perhaps reflecting vision more than immediate intent, said.