By endorsing India for a permanent seat on theUnited Nations Security Council, President Obama on Monday signaled the United States’ intention to create a deeper partnership of the world’s two largest democracies that would expand commercial ties and check the influence of an increasingly assertive China.
Mr. Obama’s announcement, made during a nationally televised address to the Indian Parliament, came at the end of a three-day visit to India that won high marks from an Indian political establishment once uncertain of the president’s commitment to the relationship. Even as stark differences remained between the countries on a range of tough issues, including Pakistan, trade policy,climate change and, to some degree, Iran, Mr. Obama spoke of India as an “indispensable” partner for the coming century.
“In Asia and around the world, India is not simply emerging,” he said during his speech in Parliament. “India has emerged.”
Mr. Obama’s closer embrace of India prompted a sharp warning from Pakistan, India’s rival and an uncertain ally of the United States in the war in Afghanistan, which criticized the two countries for engaging in “power politics” that lacked a moral foundation.
It is also likely to set off fresh concerns in Beijing, which has had a contentious relationship with India and has expressed alarm at American efforts to tighten alliances with Asian nations wary of China’s rising power.
But warmer ties between the United States and India, in the making for many years, come at a crucial time for Mr. Obama. He and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are headed to South Korea later this week for a meeting of theGroup of 20, apparently in agreement on what is expected to be a significant clash between the world’s big powers over the United States Federal Reserve’s plan to boost the American economy by pumping $600 billion into it.
China, Brazil and Germany have sharply criticized the move by the independent Fed, which they see as intended to push down the value of the dollar to boost American exports. Germany’s finance minister equated the move to currency manipulation “with the help of their central bank’s printing presses.”
“Anything that would stimulate the underlying growth and policies of entrepreneurship in the United States would help the cause of global prosperity,” he said. he good will between Mr. Obama and Mr. Singh, as well as the almost giddy reaction to the president and his wife, Michelle, in the Indian press, lent a glossy sheen to a United States-India relationship that is still evolving.
India remains deeply protective of its sovereignty, while the United States is accustomed to having the upper hand with its foreign partners. On Monday, Mr. Singh emphasized the need for the two countries “to work as equal partners in a strategic relationship.”
“For India, going back to the earliest days since independence, there has always been a very strong attachment to strategic autonomy,” said Teresita C. Schaffer, director of the South Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Americans throw around the word ‘ally’ with gay abandon.”
All the major powers have said the post-World War II structure of the Security Council, in which the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China have permanent seats with veto power, should be changed to reflect a different balance of power. But it could take years for any changes to be made, partly because there is no agreement on which countries should be promoted to an enlarged Security Council.
The United States has promised to support a promotion for Japan and now India. China is viewed as far less eager for its Asian neighbors to acquire permanent membership in the Council.
Ben Rhodes, a top foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama, said the endorsement was intended to send a strong message “in terms of how we see India on the world stage.” Meanwhile, in Washington, even critics who had blamed Mr. Obama for letting the relationship with India drift reacted with praise — and surprise.
But any outreach to India is bound to cause problems for Mr. Obama in Pakistan. In Islamabad, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry warned that Mr. Obama’s decision would further complicate the process of reforming the Security Council. Pakistan, the ministry said in a statement, hopes the United States “will take a moral view and not base itself on any temporary expediency or exigencies of power politics.”
For Mr. Obama, the Pakistan-India-United States nexus creates a delicate dance. The Obama administration is selling warplanes to Pakistan, a move viewed with suspicion here.
During his three-day visit, the president faced criticism for being too soft on Pakistan;during a question and answer session with college students, one demanded to know why he had not declared Pakistan a “terrorist state.” And even Mr. Singh, standing by the president’s side at a joint news conference Monday, reiterated India’s position that it could not have meaningful talks with Pakistan until it shut down the “terror machine” inside its borders. (NYT)
Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting from the United Nations.
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