- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

President Obama concluded his White House visit Tuesday from India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by saying the world leaders agreed on key issues involving efforts to repair the global economy, end nuclear proliferation and stop terrorism.

“India will play a pivotal role in meeting the major challenges we face today,” Mr. Obama said following their two-hour Oval Office meeting.

Mr. Obama said India and the U.S. are “natural allies” largely because they are the world’s biggest democracies with multi-ethic citizenships and shared ideals on human rights and freedom.

He also said the relationship, in which the U.S. is India’s largest trading partner, will be “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”

Mr. Obama and Mr. Singh agreed officially on six issues, including expanding counter-terrorism initiatives; preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, forming a “green partnership” that includes efforts to produce clean energy; and strengthening economic ties to spur job creation.

“The forces of terrorism in our region that pose a great threat to the civilized world have to be stopped,” Mr. Singh said at the press conference that followed the meeting. “President Obama and I have decided to strengthen our cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism.”

They also agreed on efforts to improve education and health, including a new disease-detection center in India.

Mr. Obama said he considers Mr. Singh “a man of honesty and integrity,” whom he plans to visit next year.

India, which has nuclear weapons, is considered to have the world’s fourth largest economy, behind the U.S., Japan and rival China.

When asked by a foreign press reporter about the perception that Pakistan has taken U.S. military aid and misused it on India, the president said his country was perhaps so focused on military assistance that “we didn’t think more broadly about how to encourage and develop the kinds of civil society in Pakistan that would make a difference in the lives of people day to day.”

However, it is not the place of the U.S. to resolve such conflicts from the outside, Mr. Obama said.

The official visit began at about 9 a.m. when the president and first lady Michelle Obama welcomed Mr. Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, who will attend the White House state dinner Tuesday night.

Damp, chilly weather forced the opening ceremony from the South Lawn to the East Room, where a Marine band played the national anthems of both countries. The ceremony was attended by about 200 people including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, local school children and actor Blair Underwood.

“This is a moment of great opportunity in our relationship, said Mr. Singh before giving his opening remarks.

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