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US backs India for UN permanent seat, calls for 26/11 justice

Monday November 08, 2010 09:32:38 PM, Manish Chand, IANS

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New Delhi: US President Barack Obama Monday declared support for India's bid for a permanent seat in a reformed UN Security Council, renewed a call to Pakistan to bring 26/11 terrorists to justice and eased high-tech exports to New Delhi -- part of New Delhi's wishlist whose realisation would not only bring the two countries closer but would have profound implications for the global order.

The world's two largest democracies, the oldest and the largest, sought to take their ties to a new level by agreeing to work together to deny terrorists "safe havens" in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region with visiting US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiling a slew of pacts ranging from clean energy to health and collaborating in agriculture and food security to spark "an evergreen revolution."

The big announcement - long speculated in India - about support for the UN permanent seat for New Delhi, was the crowning moment of Obama's four-day maiden visit to the country and came amid ringing applause in the cavernous Central Hall of the Indian parliament.

"We welcome India as it prepares to take a seat at the United Nations Security Council," said Obama in his address while lauding India's growing role in leading global decision-making bodies.

"And as two global leaders, the United States and India can partner for global security - especially as India serves on the Security Council over the next two years," he said in a reference to India beginning its two-year stint in the UNSC as a non-permanent member Jan 1, 2011.

"Indeed, the just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate," he said.

"That is why I can say today - in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member," he said to loud applause from 790 MPs from both its houses, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

"For in Asia and around the world, India is not simply emerging; India has already emerged. And it is my firm belief that the relationship between the US and India will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century," said Obama.

The announcement, which ended months of US ambiguity around the issue in the run-up to the presidential visit, brought much cheer to India's political and strategic establishment.

"The US' is a very powerful endorsement. It was long overdue," said Jaswant Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and a former foreign minister who initiated nuclear talks with the US after the 1998 tests.

Obama began his day of back-to-back official engagements Monday morning with a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the imposing British-era presidential mansion, and a visit to Rajghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi whom Obama has described as his hero and an inspiration.

The US president then headed for talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that focused on adding more economic substance and strategic heft to the burgeoning relationship between the world's two largest democracies.

The talks were summed up by Obama later at a press conference at Hyderabad House where he said that "ours is not ordinary relationship" and such was the depth and sweep of bilateral cooperation that "I cannot remember an occasion when we have agreed to so many new partnership across so many areas as we have done during my visit".

Before the press conference, the two leaders held talks in a restricted format for at least an hour before the delegation-level talks that lasted around 80-90 minutes. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao were present during restricted talks.

The issues included: Expansion of trade and investment, specially high-tech trade, concerns over outsourcing and deepening of counter-terror cooperation and defence issues. Among global and regional discussed were the UN reforms, non-proliferation, climate change, global economic architecture, the Indian Ocean security, East Asia and issues relating to terrorism emanating from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In a key step that brings India a step closer to ending technology-denial regimes targeted against it since the 1998 nuclear tests, Obama announced at a joint press conference the US decision to relax its export controls of high-tech equipment to India, particularly in the defence and scientific areas.

He also agreed to push New Delhi's membership in some multilateral institutions that control global trade in nuclear and dual use technologies. "The US will remove Indian organizations from the so-called Entities List" he said, adding that the two sides will implement their nuclear deal.

The announcement was music to the ears of Manmohan Singh, who launched the initiative to forge a landmark nuclear deal in 2005 with the larger promise of ending nuclear discrimination against India and boosting its civil nuclear energy to meet its power shortfall.

"We welcome the decision by the United States to lift controls on export of high technology items and technologies to India, and support India's membership in multilateral export control regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group"" said a beaming Manmohan Singh, adding that it was "a manifestation of the growing trust and confidence in each other."

"We have agreed on steps to expand our cooperation in the space, civil nuclear, defence and other high-end sector," he said.

According to official sources, the three Indian entities that have been removed from the US export black list include the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO), Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Bharat Dynamics Limited.

This apart, the US decided to support India for full membership of the top four nuclear clubs, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australian Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement.

The two sides also decided to deepen counter-terror cooperation and announced a new dialogue between the department of homeland security and India's home ministry officials. They agreed to combat terrorist networks in the region and shared notes on dealing with extremism emanating from the volatile Pakistan-Afghanistan region, said the sources.

"We agreed on the need for all nations in the region to work together and ensure that there are no safe havens for terrorists," said Obama at a joint press conference.

Describing India as "a key actor on the global stage," Obama advocated a bigger role for India in East Asia, a region which has lately seen a bout of Chinese assertiveness and which Beijing sees as its sphere of influence.

In yet another reassurance that allayed anxieties of New Delhi in the wake of a proposed power-sharing deal with the Taliban, Obama lauded India's involvement in reconstruction activities in Afghanistan and stressed that the "US will not abandon the people of Afghanistan - or the region - to the violent extremists that threaten us all."

Tacitly acknowledging India's concerns over terror groups operating from Pakistan, Obama said: "We will continue to insist to Pakistan's leaders that terrorist safe havens - within their borders - are unacceptable and that the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks be brought to justice."

With Obama by his side, Manmohan Singh, however, underlined his commitment to pursuing peace with Pakistan but made it clear that as long as "the terror machine was active against New Delhi it will be difficult to keep on talking". Obama, on his part, ruled out US mediation but encouraged the two countries to resolve their tensions by themselves.

The two leaders announced a slew of initiatives in areas of clean energy, health and agriculture that included the setting up of a Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centre in New Delhi, the establishment of a Global Disease Detection Centre in India and an agreement for cooperation in weather and crop forecasting. The two sides also decided to hold a Higher Education Summit next year

"In my discussions with the president, we have decided to accelerate the deepening of our ties and to work as equal partners in a strategic relationship that will positively and decisively influence world peace, stability and progress"," said Manmohan Singh.

Obama, who is on his maiden visit to India, evocatively described the relationship between India and India and the US as "indispensable to addressing key challenges of the 21st century.

"The relations between India and the US are stronger, deeper and broader than ever," he said" "I am confident that India's influence in world affairs will continue to rise," he said.

(Manish Chand can be





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