WASHINGTON - The United States and India agreed to forge closer defence 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.

Obama and Modi, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, said their discussions ranged from trade to space exploration to climate change to the Islamic State threat in the Middle East. “We already have the foundation of a strong partnership,” said Modi, seated beside Obama.

“We now have to revive the momentum and ensure that we get the best out of it for our people and for the world.” They didn’t provide any specific details of the understanding reached.

Modi, who took office in May, received a warm welcome in the United States, even though he was denied a visa in 2005 over rioting in his home state three years earlier that killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.

Modi, a Hindu nationalist, denies the charge, Human-rights advocates, meanwhile, expressed disappointment that Obama chose not to showcase human rights and religious freedom issues. John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said it was “pretty spectacularly disappointing” that the countries’ lengthy joint statement made no mention of religious freedom. White House Spokesman John Earnest said the topic of human rights and inclusive governance were discussed in leaders’ private conversation.

Meanwhile, American analysts see a stronger relationship between the United States and India, has the potential to provide a counterweight to China.

They hoped 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.

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 US concerns about India’s nuclear liability law, which has prevented progress on a 2005 civil nuclear deal that had been meant to transform US-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 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.

During his visit, 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 Earnest said following the meeting.

For 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 US and Indian businesses in Washington on Tuesday, he 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.

Modi is hoping his interactions will translate into deals in the coming months.

The security agreements involved a US and Indian decision to take “joint and concerted efforts” against Pakistan-based militant groups, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat ud-Dawa networks that have launched deadly attacks on Indian soil. Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said the two sides would work together to dismantle havens of these networks and disrupt tactical and financial support to them, suggesting that the US would put pressure on Pakistan, whose once-close relations with Washington incensed Indian officials.

In a brief statement at the White House after the two-hour meeting, Modi said the US was an integral part of India’s “Look East – Link

West” policy, and mentioned enhanced cooperation in the Asian-Pacific region, which is in flux owing to China’s rise and increasing military assertiveness.

Among agreements, the US pledged to help India transform three of its cities into modern “smart cities” and agreed to help upgrade the water and sewage system in a hundred more.  The US and India announced a partnership on improving resilience to climate-linked disasters and an initiative to boost investments, to be led by the US Treasury Department and the Indian Finance Ministry.