Obama takes India's side with U.N. endorsement

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 8, 2010 

NEW DELHI — President Barack Obama ended his three-day trip to India Monday with a call for raising the world's biggest democracy to global power status by granting it a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

His remarks before the Indian parliament brought instant criticism from Pakistan, India's bitter rival to the west. They also could rankle China, its giant neighbor to the north, one of the five permanent members, which could block the move with its veto.

Indian leaders welcomed the first U.S. endorsement yet of their long-standing goal, and threw their support behind controversial U.S. efforts to stimulate its domestic economy.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh jumped in to defend the Federal Reserve's plan to inject $600 billion into the U.S. economy. The U.S. plan has come under international criticism and is likely to come up during Obama's meeting later this with leaders of major economic powers.

"Anything that would stimulate the underlying growth and policies of entrepreneurship in the United States would help the cause of global prosperity," Singh said at a joint news conference.

Obama also announced the expected purchase of 10 C-17s by India and trade deals that he said would generate 50,000 jobs in the U.S.

This was Obama's first overseas trip since American voters upended Democratic control of the House of Representatives and sent a political message of discontent to the U.S. president.

On Tuesday, he was heading to Indonesia, and later in the week was visiting South Korea, to attend an economic conference with 19 other countries, and Japan.

While India's U.N. aspirations still face an uphill battle, Obama's direct endorsement offered powerful backing for the fight ahead. It also signals Obama's intentions to bet more on the U.S.-India relationship.

Addressing India's parliament on Monday evening, Obama vowed "in the years ahead" to back "a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member."

His statement bought Obama goodwill with Indians as he seeks more access to Indian markets. Obama also may try to leverage that backing for India's cooperation on foreign policy goals, including on Iran.

Endorsing India's Security Council bid brought instant criticism from Pakistan, a U.S. partner whose cooperation is critical to ending the war in Afghanistan. Abdul Basit, spokesman for Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, urged the United States to take "a moral view and not base itself on any temporary expediency or exigencies of power politics."

Pakistan still seeks U.N. intervention in the dispute with India over mostly Muslim Kashmir, where it says that decades-old U.N. resolutions haven't been implemented calling for the population to decide their destiny.

India is poised to join the Security Council in January as one of 10 member countries that serve two-year terms on the body.

If India did get permanent Security Council status, "in Pakistan, people will say that heaven will fall," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, an analyst based in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. "We are not prepared to accept certain realities, of India's rising, its economy, and the clout India had developed in the West."

Indian leaders have long sought American support for their country's addition to the five-member permanent members able to veto resolutions: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. Obama also has supported Japan's quest for membership.

China has long resisted India's ambitions.

But Obama's support could put China in a difficult spot as Chinese leaders compete with the United States for greater economic influence in Asia.

The Chinese state newswire Xinhua noted Obama's endorsement with a news brief but Chinese officials had made no public comment as of late Monday evening Beijing time.

Teresita C. Schaffer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said that as a growing economic and military power, India should be given a permanent Security Council seat, but that "it would likely be part of an expansion that brings in other new" permanent members.

"The Security Council is basically configured for the end of World War II," said Schaffer, an expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The challenge of dealing with global issues in the coming years really demands that it broadens its membership and take into account the countries that will be consequential players in the world. India clearly falls into that category."

At the news conference with Singh, Obama said the U.S. wants improved relations between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, terrorism and other concerns, and would be willing to play any appropriate role to assist. But, he said, "the United States cannot impose a solution to these problems."

Singh dampened any immediate prospects of outside mediation over Kashmir, however, saying, "You cannot simultaneously be talking, and at the same time the terror machine is as active as ever before. Once Pakistan moves away from this terror induced question we will be very happy to engage productively with Pakistan."

Obama also summed up before reporters the immediate stakes for his India visit once he returned home — and it had nothing to do with the U.N.

"I want to be able to say to the American people when they ask me, 'Well why are you spending time with India, aren't they talking our jobs?�' I want to be able to say, actually, you know what, they just created 50,000 jobs and that's why we shouldn't be resorting to protectionist measures."

Singh assured Obama that "India is not in the business of stealing jobs from the United States of America." The Indian leader said his nation's outsourcing industry has helped to improve U.S. companies' productivity.

He said the new trade deals struck in connection with Obama's visit to India largely revolved around infrastructure and that India's infrastructure challenges are the biggest "bottleneck" to his nation's growth. He called the expanded trade a "win-win" for both nations.

(Talev and Nissenbaum reported from New Delhi. Saeed Shah in Karachi, Pakistan, Tom Lasseter in Beijing and Jonathan S. Landay in Washington contributed to this article.)

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