New Delhi:President Barack Obama hinted on Monday the United States could lend support to India’s demand to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, a move that could put diplomatic pressure on rival regional power China.
Also Read | Obama’s India visit (Full Coverage)
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh greet each other after addressing a joint press conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Monday. Atul Yadav / PTI photo
Highlighting the regional diplomatic jigsaw that Obama must negotiate on his first official trip to India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared to rebuff calls by the US president for India and Pakistan to move forward on peace talks.
Obama is walking a diplomatic tightrope in New Delhi, on the one hand trying to boost diplomatic and business ties with India while on the other ensuring relations with Pakistan and China, nations often at loggerheads with India, stay stable.
India wants a seat on the UN council, saying it would reflect the growing weight of the G-20 nation as its trillion dollar economy helps spur global growth and its government exerts influence over issues from Doha trade to climate change talks.
“We discussed the need for international institutions, including the United Nations, to reflect the realities of the 21st century,” Obama told a joint news conference with Singh.
“I will be addressing that issue of a permanent seat for India in my speech to Parliament today,” Obama added.
Obama spoke from New Delhi on the first leg of a 10-day Asian tour that has been hailed as moving the United States closer to India as Washington tries to revive a weak economy and gather support to exert pressure on China on its currency.
Obama will visit Indonesia, South Korea and Japan on the tour that will see Washington push to prevent countries unilaterally devaluing currencies to protect their exports, a top theme at the G-20 meeting in Seoul this week.
The UN Security Council has since the body’s inception had five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - with the power to veto resolutions. It also has 10 non-permanent rotating members.
Any US support for a UN seat for India would come up against opposition from countries like China. India has also often stood against the United States in UN votes.
“It (India’s membership) will not be done any time soon,” said Gurmeet Karmal, director of Centre for Land Warfare Studies, a New Delhi based think-tank. “The UNSC (US Security Council) is not going to be reorganized in the next eight to 10 years.
“I do not think China will openly come in the way, but they will encourage some of its friends to vote against any such move.”
India Criticizes Pakistan
Underscoring these diplomatic difficulties, Singh poured cold water on any immediate improvement in relations with Pakistan, in the doldrums since Pakistan-based terrorists killed 166 people in a rampage through Mumbai in 2008.
Obama on Sunday had called on the two nuclear foes, who have gone to war three times since independence in 1947, to take small steps to improve ties.
“You cannot simultanously be talking and at the same time the terror machine is as active as ever before,” Singh told the joint news conference.
“Once Pakistan moves away from this terror-induced coercion, we will be very happy to engage productively with Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues.”
But whether answering questions from students over Pakistan or talking to farmers by video link, Obama’s trip has won positive coverage in a nation where US cultural influence is growing as is a new middle class, millions of consumers strong.
Obama has met with some criticism at home for traveling abroad so soon after his losses in mid-term elections over unemployment, but has been well received in India, vowing to lift export controls and announcing $10 billion in business deals.
Obama announced $10 billion in business deals with India, a statement aimed at reassuring voters that countries like India offer benefits for US jobs rather than causing unemployment through outsourcing.
Obama has won plaudits in India for announcing the United States would also relax export controls over sensitive technology. The US president said he would support India’s membership of four global non-proliferation organizations, a move that will reassure New Delhi -- left out of these groups after its 1998 nuclear tests -- that Washington is recognizing its global clout. It is unclear how much new Washington will get from India.
Sectors like retail and the financial services are still heavily restricted to foreign investors and there are few signs that Singh’s ruling Congress party has plans for any major reforms soon.
The US under secretary of commerce for international trade, Francisco Sanchez, said in New Delhi that the United States wanted greater market access to India’s infrastructure and energy sectors.