US, India gets deeper in bilateral relationship as Obama endorses UN high post bid by Singh

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US President Barrak Obama and Indian leader Singh
US President Barrak Obama and Indian leader Manmohan Singh

U.S. President Barack Obama endorsed India’s bid to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a move his administration said would cement its status as a rising economic power and key strategic partner.

“The just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate,” Obama told hundreds of Indian lawmakers in a joint session of parliament. “That is why I can say today in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member,” Obama said.

Obama coupled his endorsement with an appeal for India to play a more vigorous role in East Asia and in defending human rights — steps he linked specifically to authoritarian rule by the military in India’s neighbor, Myanmar, also known as Burma. Obama said Myanmar’s army had stolen yesterday’s elections there, the first in 20 years, even as fighting broke out in the country’s east.

“If I can be frank, in international fora, India has often avoided these issues,” he said. “But speaking up for those who cannot do so for themselves is not interfering in the affairs of other countries.”

The president’s support for a permanent Indian place in the Security Council drew long applause and appeared likely to boost a bilateral relationship that many U.S. and Indian analysts have seen as “stalled,” according to a report last month by the Washington-based Center for a New American Security.

Doha Deal

Speaking on the third and final full day of his India visit, Obama touted his administration’s decision to relax export controls on space and defense technology for India as one of several examples showing how the U.S. now sees India as a partner.

Obama called for expanded trade and reiterated his support for the stalled Doha Round of the World Trade Organization. Obama’s trip to Asia has focused on opening foreign markets to U.S. goods and his administration is working to complete a revised free-trade pact with South Korea, which has been stalled for three years, during his visit to Seoul later this week.

“And we can keep striving for a Doha Round that is ambitious and balanced — with the courage to make the compromises that are necessary so global trade works for all economies,” Obama said.

Obama’s speech aligned the U.S. with France and the U.K. in backing India for a permanent place on the Security Council. The move “will bring a positive, emotional response from Indians,” and will strengthen Singh in domestically unpopular efforts to continue diplomacy with Pakistan, said Sumit Ganguly, an Indian- American political science professor at Indiana University who is currently living in New Delhi.

Cabinet Backing?

“Singh has been acting against his entire cabinet, and against elite and popular opinion, in continuing to reach out to Pakistan” since the 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistani Islamic militant guerrillas, Ganguly said in a phone interview. Obama’s support “might help Singh get the support of his cabinet colleagues for these overtures,” he said.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in an emailed statement that the president’s initiative “adds to the complexity” of restructuring the Security Council. Pakistan has opposed a more prominent role at the United Nations for the country with which it has fought three wars since their independence in 1947.

Details of an enlarged Indian role at the United Nations will have to be worked out as part of a broad effort to restructure the Security Council. U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns declined today to give a timeline for that process and did not say whether the U.S. would push for India to wield the veto power currently held only by the U.S., France, U.K., China and Russia.

Defense, Space

As part of agreements reached during Obama’s stay, the U.S. will support India’s full membership in multilateral nuclear non-proliferation regimes and remove India’s defense and space organizations from the U.S. “entities list,” which restricts them from doing business with the U.S.

President Obama and Manmohan Singh
President Obama and Manmohan Singh

Indian officials had been asking the administration to remove the country’s companies and organizations from the list, a designation that punished the South Asian country for detonating a nuclear device in 1998.

–With assistance from Hans Nichols in New Delhi. Editors: Mark Williams, Sam Nagarajan

To contact the reporters on this story: Julianna Goldman in Mumbai at jgoldman6@bloomberg.net; James Rupert in New Delhi at jrupert3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Austin at billaustin@bloomberg.net

United States President Barack Obama (L) smiles as First Lady Michelle Obama dances with school children during the Diwali festival at at Holy Name High School in Mumbai, India on Sunday, November 7, 2010. UPI

President Barack Obama declared in August that U.S. ties with India would be “one of the defining relationships” of the 21st century as he welcomed India’s prime minister Singh for the first state visit of his administration.

At the conclusion of about two hours of talks, Obama said he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had agreed to “work even closer” on sharing information between law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Singh then promised increased cooperation with Washington to battle terrorism.

Source: Bloomberg