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Obama boosts India for 'rightful place in world'

President Barack Obama inspects an honor guard during a reception Monday at India’s presidential palace in New Delhi. 

Associated Press

President Barack Obama inspects an honor guard during a reception Monday at India’s presidential palace in New Delhi. 

NEW DELHI — Deepening America's stake in Asian power politics, President Barack Obama on Monday endorsed India's bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, hoping to elevate the nation of a billion people to "its rightful place in the world" alongside an assertive China.

Obama's declaration, delivered to the pounding applause of India's Parliament members, spoke to a mission broader than the makeup of one global institution. By spending three packed days in India — announcing trade deals, dismissing job-outsourcing gripes and admonishing India's neighboring rival, Pakistan — Obama went all in for an ally whose support he hopes to bank on for years.

"I want every Indian citizen to know: The United States of America will not simply be cheering you on from the sidelines," Obama said inside the soaring legislative chamber of the capital city. "We will be right there with you, shoulder to shoulder, because we believe in the promise of India."

To Obama, that promise entails shaking up the world order by giving more voice to developing countries that offer lucrative markets for U.S. products and potential help to counter terrorism and a warming planet. India fits Obama's agenda perfectly because it is the world's largest democracy and sits in the heart of a pivotal, vexing region.

The diplomacy in India also gave Obama a chance to reassert himself on the global stage, far from Washington in the aftermath of humbling congressional elections.

His final day in India began with a lavish welcome ceremony at the majestic palace residence of India's president and ended there as Obama and his wife, Michelle, were toasted at a state dinner.

The capstone of Obama's outreach here came when he announced support for India's long push to achieve a permanent place on the Security Council, the elite body responsible for maintaining international peace. It underlined Obama's contention that the partnership between the United States and India could have a defining impact on both countries and the world.

Yet White House aides acknowledge that any changes to the council could be messy and years in the making. Attempts to expand the council have long failed because of rivalries between countries.

India considered Obama's move to be an enormous coup regardless.

India is part of the so-called Group of Four — with Germany, Japan and Brazil — that have been seeking permanent seats as major economic and political powers. U.S. backing for a permanent seat for India is important, but officials here must also win support of the other veto-wielding council members, and the General Assembly has to agree on a reform plan.

The five permanent members of the Security Council are the United States, China, France, the United Kingdom and Russia. The only other country the United States has endorsed for permanent membership is Japan.

Pakistan criticized Obama's statement, accusing India of "blatant violations" of U.N. resolutions and calling on the United States to "take a moral view and not base itself on any temporary expediency or exigencies of power politics." China has long objected to India's proposed ascension to the council.

The dangerous tensions between Pakistan and India helped frame Obama's trip. Pakistan is vitally important to Obama's bid to root out terrorists and win the war in Afghanistan. But India is deeply suspicious of Pakistan and demanding a stronger crackdown on extremist elements within the country's borders.

Much of any discussion about India is also seen through the prism of China — both by the White House and by nations within Asia that are wary of China's growing might. A higher standing by India is widely seen as a way to keep power in balance in Asia, although Obama is also reaching out to China and will meet with its president later this week.

Also Monday, Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stood in solidarity at a news conference in citing all the ways, from security to education, that their nations' relationship is growing. On the economy, Singh joined Obama in dismissing criticism of outsourcing work to other countries, saying his nation "is not in the business of stealing jobs from America."

Obama departed early today for Indonesia, the country where he spent four years as a boy. From there, he heads to economic meetings in South Korea and Japan. The president returns to Washington on Sunday.

Obama boosts India for 'rightful place in world' 11/08/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 8, 2010 11:50pm]

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