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Obama Backs India’s Bid for U.N. Security Council Seat

November 8, 2010 at 5:25 PM EDT
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RAY SUAREZ: President Obama’s endorsement of India’s demand for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council reflects the country’s growing global weight. The announcement came on the president’s first stop on a 10-day Asian trip.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I look forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.

(APPLAUSE)

RAY SUAREZ: President Obama speaking to the Indian Parliament in a surprising gesture to his hosts, who wanted that permanent seat for some time. But the president offered a note of caution along with his endorsement.

BARACK OBAMA: Let me suggest that with increased power comes increased responsibility.

RAY SUAREZ: It is a long path from today’s speech to full membership. Many procedural and political roadblocks remain, high among them, opposition from China.

Mr. Obama’s three-day visit showed points of contention and cooperation in the expanding U.S.-India relationship, from Indian involvement in Afghanistan and its explosive relationship with neighboring Pakistan, to the promotion of democracy, to nuclear nonproliferation, and trade and business relations.

At a news conference earlier in the day, Mr. Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighted further economic opportunity for both countries.

BARACK OBAMA: We have expanded trade and investment to create prosperity for our people.

MANMOHAN SINGH, Indian Prime Minister: India needs an investment of a trillion dollars in the next five years in its infrastructure. And we would welcome American contribution in fulfilling that ambition of ours.

RAY SUAREZ: Since last week’s election in the U.S., the president has sought to rebrand his stop in India as a jobs and trade mission.

Mr. Obama pointed to deals between American and Indian firms he said would support the creation of more than 53,000 jobs in the U.S. Even as both leaders looked forward, relations between India and its archrival, Pakistan, were never far from the surface.

The two nuclear powers have fought three wars over the last 60 years. And the flash points between them are many, from the fate of the disputed region of Kashmir to cross-border terrorism. On Saturday in Mumbai, Mr. Obama spoke at a memorial for victims of the November 2008 terror attacks in the city launched by Pakistani extremists.

Yesterday, at a town hall meeting, Mr. Obama took a particularly direct question about Pakistan, which is a linchpin of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.

WOMAN: Why is Pakistan so important an ally to America, so far as America has never called it a terrorist state?

BARACK OBAMA: That’s a good question. And I must admit, I was expecting it.

(LAUGHTER)

RAY SUAREZ: The president sought to differentiate between extremist elements within Pakistan and the actions of its government. And he urged engagement.

BARACK OBAMA: That dialogue begins, perhaps on less controversial issues, building up to more controversial issues, and that, over time, there’s a recognition that India and Pakistan can live side by side in peace, and that both countries can prosper.

RAY SUAREZ: The issue was raised again today in a question posed to the prime minister.

MANMOHAN SINGH: We are committed to engage Pakistan. We are committed to resolve all outstanding issues between our two countries.

RAY SUAREZ: But, amid the serious talk, there were moments of reflection and remembrance. Mr. Obama and the first lady visited the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation today, removing their shoes and tossing flower petals, as is customary, and, this evening, an elaborate state dinner hosted by the prime minister and his wife.

However, it was not all a delicate diplomatic dance. Yesterday, the president and first lady found time to cut a rug with some children at a New Delhi school. Tomorrow, the president departs for Indonesia, where he spent four years as a child.