Obama also promoted religious tolerance during his speech at the Siri Fort auditorium
New Delhi: President Barack Obama said that the US can become India’s “best partner" as he wrapped up a three-day visit to New Delhi on Tuesday.
“India and the US are not just natural partners—I believe that America can be India’s best partner," Obama said in a speech before an audience of young people.
“Of course, only Indians can decide India’s role in the world," said the US president who received a rapturous reception from the audience.
“But I’m here because I am absolutely convinced that both our peoples will have more jobs and opportunity, our nations will be more secure, and the world will be a safer and more just place when our two democracies stand together."
Obama warned that the world does not “stand a chance against climate change" unless developing countries such as India reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
“I know the argument made by some, that it’s unfair for countries like the US to ask developing nations and emerging economies like India to reduce your dependence on the same fossil fuels that helped power our growth for more than a century," Obama said in New Delhi.
“But here’s the truth: even if countries like the US curb our emissions, if growing countries like India—with soaring energy needs—don’t also embrace cleaner fuels, then we don’t stand a chance against climate change," he added in a speech on the last day of a visit to India.
Obama was due to fly out later Tuesday to Saudi Arabia at the end of a visit that saw him become the first US president to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations.
The US President also stressed on the freedom of navigation and said it must be upheld in the Asia Pacific, as rival China asserts its power in the region.
“The US welcomes a greater role for India in the Asia Pacific, where the freedom of navigation must be upheld and disputes must be resolved peacefully," Obama said.
The US President made the comments after holding talks in New Delhi with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has taken a more assertive stance on China than his predecessor.
The US is looking to reinvigorate alliances in the Asia-Pacific as part of Obama’s “pivot" east, and sees India as a key potential balance to rising Chinese power.
Beijing claims sovereignty over large swathes of the South China Sea, home to maritime lanes that are vital to global trade, and is engaged in territorial disputes with a host of nations in the region.
Obama further said that while he has had extraordinary opportunities, “there were moments in my life where I’ve been treated differently because of the colour of my skin." As he touted the importance of religious tolerance, he noted the persistent false rumours that he is a Muslim, not a Christian.
“There have been times where my faith has at times been questioned by people who don’t know me, or they’ve said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing," Obama said.
The US has said some local laws and policies in India restrict religious freedom, with reports of discrimination and organized attacks against religious minorities. Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was denied was denied a visa to the US in 2005, three years after religious riots killed more than 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat where he served as the chief minister. He has denied any wrongdoing and India’s top court has absolved him of any role, but India’s Muslims and Christians are wary of Modi’s right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“Every woman should be able to go about her day—to walk the street, or ride the bus—and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity that she deserves," Obama said to applause.
Since taking office in May, Modi has often talked about women’s rights, urging Indians to treat sons and daughters equally. He recently launched an “educate the daughter, save the daughter," programme to stem sex selective abortions and encourage parents to keep girls in schools.
AP contributed to the story.
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