NEW DEHLI: For India, it was a sweet and victorious end to one of the most hyped overseas visits by a US President in history – one that could potentially redefine global and regional discourse, and help India realise its ambitions of stepping up to the summit of global power.
US President Barack Obama’s three-day trip – which had already seen a raft of commercial deals and agreements to cooperate more closely in agriculture, health and energy – reached a crescendo on Monday with Obama officially endorsing India’s quest for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council – something that was high on the agenda for New Delhi.
Inviting the world’s largest democracy to take its “rightful” place at the summit of global power in a landmark address to the Indian parliament on Monday, the US president delivered a foreign policy victory to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“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.
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 Myanmar.
While there has been incremental US support for an Indian Security Council seat, Washington had previously stopped short of a full endorsement.
Obama hailed a deeper and closer alliance with India, which he said had established itself as a world power and a natural US ally on the global stage.
The president said that the principles of democracy and human rights were too often ignored around the world, but India and the US would combine to promote them in “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century”. India has won a temporary seat on the UN Security Council and will take up the position for two years from January 1.
Obama also spoke about Pakistan, a key US anti-terror ally but arch-rival of India which accuses it of permitting extremist groups to plot cross-border strikes such as the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai.
“We’ll 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.
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.
Earlier, addressing a joint press conference with Singh, Obama said that the United States could not “impose” a solution on India and Pakistan’s dispute over Kashmir.
While offering to play “any role” that the nuclear-armed neighbours feel could help reduce tensions, Obama made it clear that there was no question of forced US interference in Kashmir or any other bilateral dispute.
“The US cannot impose solutions to these problems,” he told the joint press conference.
Singh said India remained committed to engagement with its long-time rival, but said Pakistan must first distance itself properly from “terror-induced coercion”.
“We are committed to resolving all outstanding issues between our two countries, including the ‘K’ word,” Singh said. “But you cannot simultaneously be talking when at the same time the terror machine is as active as ever before.”
“Once Pakistan moves away from terror-induced coercion, we will be very happy to engage productively,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2010.