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Obama backs India’s drive for UN power

09 November, 2010

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NEW DELHI: US President Barack Obama on Monday backed India’s quest for a permanent UN Security Council seat, inviting the world’s largest democracy to take its ‘rightful’ place at the summit of global power.

In a symbolic climax of his three-day visit to a nation he hailed as an ‘indispensable’ US partner, Obama delivered the foreign policy victory to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the address to the Indian parliament.

But at the same time he warned that with growing power, came increased responsibility as he pointedly criticised India for failing to condemn human rights abuses in neighbouring Myanmar.

“The just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate,” Obama said, making a case that India was already an established global power.

“That is why I can say today - in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member,” he said, drawing prolonged applause. While there has been incremental US support for an Indian Security Council seat, Washington had previously stopped short of a full endorsement.

However, US officials said they had yet to work out how a body born in the wreckage of World War II could be reformed to reflect new geopolitical realities, and said India may have to wait a ‘significant’ time.

Obama spoke after meeting Singh and the two sides unveiled a sheaf of economic, environmental and democratic projects to cement one of the ‘defining partnerships of the 21st century’.

While piling praise on India, Obama also challenged it to uphold the democratic ideals to which the former jewel in the crown of the British empire owed its independence and rise to prominence.

Seeking an example, he jabbed his hosts on their record on military-ruled Myanmar, which held elections on Sunday which Obama said were stolen by the ruling junta. “When peaceful democratic movements are suppressed, as they have been in Burma (Myanmar), then the democracies of the world cannot remain silent,” Obama said.

“Faced with such gross violations of human rights, it is the responsibility of the international community, especially leaders like the United States and India, to condemn it,” he said. “If I can be frank, in international fora, India has often shied away from these issues,” he added.

Obama also spoke about Pakistan. “We will continue to insist to Pakistan’s leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks must be brought to justice,” Obama said to applause.

He added that though the United States wanted dialogue between the South Asian rivals, their conflicts could be solved by the two nations alone, eschewing any US effort to broker peace talks.

During talks with Indian Premier Manmohan Singh, he said he would raise cooperation on counter-terrorism and the economy, but the two men are also expected to discuss Afghanistan, Pakistan and China.

“India is not simply an emerging power, but now is a world power,” Obama told reporters after inspecting a ceremonial guard of honour as he was welcomed at the presidential palace. He said the alliance between the United States and India ‘will be one of defining partnerships of the 21st century’. “We are the two largest democracies in the world. We share extraordinary people-to-people contacts. Most importantly we share a core set of values,” he added.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama paid fulsome tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and said studying the legacy of India’s independence icon had helped propel him to the White House. In an address to the Indian parliament as he wrapped up a three-day visit, Obama described the personal impact of Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence and equality on his political career.

“Throughout my life, including my work as a young man on behalf of the urban poor, I have always found inspiration in the life of Gandhiji and in his simple and profound lesson to be the change we seek in the world,” he said.

“I am mindful that I might not be standing before you today, as president of the United States, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared with America and the world,” he added. On Tuesday Obama will travel to his childhood home in Indonesia, before heading to the G20 summit in Seoul and the APEC gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders in Japan.

Online adds: “The Pakistani government increasingly recognises that ‘terror’ networks are not just a threat outside of Pakistan - they are a threat to the Pakistani people, who have suffered greatly at the hands of violent extremists,” Obama said, while addressing the Indian parliament. He said the world needed to recognise the importance of a stable and prosperous Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said the US would not abandon the Afghan people to violent extremists. “Our strategy to disrupt and dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates has to succeed on both sides of the border,” he said.

He said his administration was working with the Pakistani establishment to address the threat of terrorist networks in the border region. Addressing a press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Obama said the United States could not impose a solution to Kashmir or other issues in the volatile India-Pakistan relationship.

“I believe both Pakistan and India have an interest in reducing tensions between the two countries,” Obama said, when asked about the Kashmir dispute at a press conference after he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In response to a question, Obama said the Indian leader had both privately and publicly spoken about his desire and commitment to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan. “Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh is sincere and relentless in his desire for peace,” Obama said.

“So my hope is both sides can over the next several months, several years, find a mechanism to work out (a solution to) one of this very difficult issues.” Obama made the observation after saying that the US was ready to play ‘any role’ to help India and Pakistan reduce their tensions over Kashmir if they so desired. He said India had made progress due to democracy.

However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it clear that a full-scale dialogue with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue would not be possible until Pakistan stopped the export of terror to India.

He said India was committed to resolving the Kashmir issue. “We are not afraid of K-word. But Pakistan must first stop the terror machine,” he added. “India and the US have decided to start a new homeland security dialogue to deepen their cooperation,” Prime Minister Singh said.

“We had a detailed discussion (on) East Asia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and West Asia. We have a shared vision of security and prosperity in Asia based on an open and inclusive regional architecture.” He added the countries also had a common vision of a world without nuclear weapons and would lead efforts in this direction. “This is a historic and bold bilateral initiative.”

INP adds: President Obama said the resolution of Kashmir problem was in the interest of the two countries and the region. “Dialogue between India and Pakistan may not begin on the particular flashpoint (Kashmir) but there may be confidence building measures before that,” the US president added.

He was replying to a question by a Washington Post correspondent at a joint press conference with Indian prime minister, who asked that Kashmir faced a difficult summer, what was US policy and whether it can play any role resolving this problem.

End.

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