Obama supports Indian bid for seat on UN Security Council

During visit to New Delhi, US president offers to assist India and Pakistan in dispute over Kashmir; says US relationship with India is one of the "defining partnerships of the 21st century."

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
November 8, 2010 21:05
2 minute read.
Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh, Nov. 8.

obama and singh_311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

NEW DELHI — US President Barack Obama backed India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council Monday, a dramatic diplomatic gesture to his hosts as he wrapped up his first visit to this burgeoning nation.

Obama made the announcement in a speech to India's parliament on the third and final day of his visit. In doing so, he fulfilled what was perhaps India's dearest wish for Obama's trip here. India has been pushing for permanent Security Council membership for years.

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"The just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate," Obama said. "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."

The announcement brought the loudest applause of Obama's speech. But it does not mean that India will join the five permanent Security Council members anytime soon. The US is backing India's membership only in the context of unspecified reforms to the council that could take years to bring about.

That makes Obama's announcement more of a diplomatic gesture than a concrete step. Nonetheless, it underscores the importance the US places on fostering ties with this nation of 1.2 billion people, something Obama has been seeking to accomplish throughout his time here.

Obama said repeatedly throughout his three days in India — first in the financial center of Mumbai and then in the capital of New Delhi — that he views the relationship between the two countries as one of the "defining partnerships" of the 21st century. He set out to prove it by making India the first stop on a four-country tour of Asia, and then through economic announcements, cultural outreach and finally the announcement about the UN Security Council.

India has sought permanent council membership as recognition of its surging economic clout and its increased stature in world affairs. The US endorsement is certain to deepen the ties between them and could also send Obama's popularity in India skyrocketing to a level comparable to that enjoyed by George W. Bush. The former president is seen as a hero here for helping end India's nuclear isolation.

In another important gesture to India, Obama went farther than he had previously during his stay in addressing the terror threat inside Pakistan, India's neighbor and archrival. Obama angered some here when he visited a memorial to victims of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks but didn't mention Pakistan, which was home to the attackers.

"We will continue to insist to Pakistan's leaders that terrorist safe-havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks be brought to justice," the president said in the address, to loud applause. "We must also recognize that all of us have an interest in both an Afghanistan and a Pakistan that is stable, prosperous and democratic — and none more so than India."

Pakistan views India's ties with the US-backed government in Afghanistan as an effort by its old rival to encircle it.


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