President Barack Obama hopes visit to India will help boost U.S. economy

Indian Shiite Muslims hold placards and shout slogans protesting President Barack Obama’s visit during a demonstration Friday outside a mosque in Lucknow, India. 

Associated Press

Indian Shiite Muslims hold placards and shout slogans protesting President Barack Obama’s visit during a demonstration Friday outside a mosque in Lucknow, India. 

MUMBAI, India — President Barack Obama is heading to India in search of jobs at home.

The president will arrive today in Mumbai, India's booming financial center, where he will meet with local business leaders and with American executives who have traveled to India in search of billions of dollars in trade deals.

The White House hopes to announce agreements on aircraft and other exports, and generally broadcast that America is open for business with burgeoning India and its 1.2 billion residents.

The administration says jobs and the U.S. economy are the focus of Obama's 10-day Asia trip, a message aimed at inoculating him against any criticism that he is concentrating on foreign affairs while Americans are suffering with unemployment at 9.6 percent.

On his foreign trip, the longest of his presidency so far, Obama's business-first message is aimed particularly at India, where he is spending three full days. That's the longest amount of time in any one country on a trip that's also taking him to Indonesia, where he lived for four years as a youth, to South Korea for a meeting of the Group of 20 developed and developing nations, and then to Japan for an American Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Obama's popularity generally has held steady overseas. Nonetheless, he will be meeting with leaders certain to be aware that his political strength has weakened at home.

U.S. and Indian officials have stressed the close ties that have developed between the world's two largest democracies over the past decade. It's a relationship that both countries hope will expand and improve — partly, in the U.S. view, as a counterbalance to China's growing power.

Obama will be speaking to a gathering of Indian and American chief executives today, and he's expected to announce the completion of job-producing commercial deals. The United States has been looking for India to finalize purchases of Boeing aircraft and marine engines produced by Caterpillar, among other exports.

However, serious disagreements remain, and they appear unlikely to be resolved during Obama's visit.

India has raised concerns about the billions of dollars in military aid the United States is funneling to Pakistan, which is India's archrival but a linchpin for Washington and its allies in the war in Afghanistan. Leaders here also are wary of the increasing rhetoric by U.S. politicians against the outsourcing of jobs abroad, including to India.

A recent move by Congress to increase fees on high-tech workers' visas, relied on by some Indians going to work in America, also has rankled here.

In an interview with the Press Trust of India, Obama said, "As president, I have a responsibility to support jobs and opportunity for the American people, and I believe the U.S.-India economic relationship can and should be a win-win relationship for both of our countries."

He was noncommittal when asked about lifting a ban on the export of certain military goods to India and whether the United States would support India's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Obama will spend about a day and a half in Mumbai before heading to New Delhi, the capital, for meetings with government leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

President Barack Obama hopes visit to India will help boost U.S. economy 11/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 11:07pm]

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