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.
"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.
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.