Obama rolls out red carpet for India – The defining partnership of the 21st century
By a Staff Reporter
President Barack Obama rolled out the red carpet, November 24, for India in the first official state visit of his presidency, but analysts say the stresses of a key relationship in a tinderbox part of the world may well lie just beneath the glitz and glamour of a state dinner.
Obama welcomed Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with an elaborate state greeting on the South Lawn of the White House, met with Singh through the day, then hosted him and his wife at a formal dinner for 400 under a tent erected on the South Lawn.
President Barack Obama, moving to allay concerns over a loss of U.S. affection, reassured India’s prime minister that the partnership between the two countries would be “one of the defining relationships of the 21st century.”
Appearing with Manmohan Singh at the White House after two hours of talks, Obama said the two countries have agreed to broaden cooperation in a range of areas, including the economy, agriculture, technology, trade and counter-terrorism.
Obama’s administration in recent weeks has focused intensely on countries flanking India, namely Pakistan and China—the former a key ally in the war on terror and the latter a key player in the world economy and a partner in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. India regards both neighbors warily, and was keenly aware that Obama played up relations with China during his visit to Asia last week.
But the U.S. looks to India as a regional counterweight to China and would like to see India ease tensions with Pakistan so that Pakistan would feel free to move some of its military away from the Pakistan-India border toward Afghanistan to fight the Pakistani Taliban, says a report in McClatchy Newspapers
In a speech, Singh reportedly urged the U.S. and its allies to maintain a long-term commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan, a reflection of Indian fears that a restoration of Taliban rule could again make the country a sanctuary for Islamic extremist groups that would export their violent ideology throughout the region.
There was no visible sign of progress on two important but difficult issues: Iran’s disputed nuclear program and the long-delayed U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement, an MCT report says. U.S. officials stressed that Obama remains fully committed to the complex 2005 nuclear deal, though it has taken far longer to complete than expected.
Indian officials have worried recently that the Obama administration is less committed than its predecessors to strengthening the U.S.-India relationship. Indians are anxious that their relationship is taking a back seat to growing U.S.-Chinese and U.S.-Pakistani ties.
In a statement that appeared aimed at listeners in Delhi, Obama stressed that the United States is not looking solely to China for leadership in Asia. “The United States welcomes and encourages India’s leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia,” Obama said.
“As leading economies, the United States and India can strengthen the global economic recovery, promote trade that creates jobs for both our people, and pursue growth that is balanced and sustained,”
Obama said that as nuclear powers, the US and India can be full partners in preventing the spread of the world’s most deadly weapons, securing loose nuclear materials from terrorists, and pursuing a shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons.
“As people who’ve known the pain and anguish of terrorism, we can stand together — cooperating to prevent future attacks, and promote the development and prosperity that undermines violent extremism,”
He said that as India becomes an increasingly influential global power, the US and India can partner to meet other transnational challenges: developing clean energy partnerships, confronting climate change, and infectious disease, reducing hunger and working to end extreme poverty in our time.
In a speech, Singh said India and America may be separated by distance, but are bound together by the values of democracy, pluralism, rule of law, and respect for fundamental human freedoms. “Over the years, we have built upon these values and created a partnership that is based upon both principle and pragmatism. Our relations have been transformed, and today they encompass cooperation in all areas of human activity.”
Mr. Singh said he had come to build upon these successes and to strengthen the multifaceted relationship.
“We seek to broaden and deepen our strategic partnership, and to work with the United States to meet these challenges of a fast-changing world in this 21st century,” he said.
“This is a moment of great opportunity in our relationship. We should cooperate in addressing global challenges of combating terrorism, making our environment cleaner and moving towards a world free of nuclear weapons.”