A day after his party suffered a bruising political reverse in crucial mid-term polls, US President Barack Obama put up a brave face and sought to retain focus on his forthcoming visit to India, which he described as the “cornerstone” of US engagement in Asia and one of his “highest foreign policy priorities”. Still, he played down expectations and avoided direct answers to questions on contentious issues in an interview to Lalit K. Jhaof ‘Press Trust of India’ in Washington Obama will be the third US President to visit India in the last decade, a period in which the two countries have entered an entirely new trajectory in their relationship. Edited excerpts:
Sidestepping any clear response either on the issue of India’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) or lifting restrictions on export of dual-use technology, Obama maintained it was “very difficult and complicated”.
Playing it cool: US President Barack Obama during a call to John Boehner, who will most likely be the next House of Representatives speaker, after the Republican party made sweeping gains in US mid-term elections. AP
“Our teams continue to work hard to reach an agreement that strengthens the international non-proliferation system while treating India in a manner that is consistent with our strategic partnership,” he said in a reference to export restrictions that cover items which have both peaceful and military usage.
Similarly, he declined to commit his position on the UNSC bid and merely said that the issue would be discussed during his visit.
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Obama stressed that the relationship between the two countries “now goes well beyond any one particular issue”.
He said, “If you look at the breadth of everything we are working on now—from economic engagement to counter-terrorism and security cooperation, from clean energy to development...it goes well beyond the type of cooperation that we pursued just a few years ago.”
The President reiterated his opposition to outsourcing, saying, “As President, I have a responsibility to support jobs and opportunity for the American people, and I believe the US-India economic relationship can and should be a ‘win-win’ relationship.”
Obama said his administration is “focused on America’s economic recovery, investing in America’s future, creating and keeping jobs in the US, increasing our exports, and providing incentives and creating conditions under which businesses can grow and prosper.”
Instead, he made a strong case for more outward investment from India to the US, especially those that support job creation. “India has world-class companies, many of which are creating and supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the US, and my administration wishes to encourage more such investment,” Obama said.
The President, who begins his three-day visit in Mumbai, said Pakistan should fulfil its stated commitments to bring to justice those responsible for terrorism.
“Since the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, we have told the Pakistani government that they have an international responsibility to cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice, and that there is a special responsibility to do so transparently, fully and urgently,” Obama said.
Answering criticism that Washington had not “leaned enough” on Pakistan to deal with terrorism emanating from its soil, Obama said that the US had taken every opportunity to make it clear to Pakistan that “confronting violent extremism of all sorts is in its own interests and in the interest of regional stability”.