- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2010

NEW DELHI | President Obama promised Monday to support India’s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, while lauding the South Asian nation’s tribute to its ancient heritage and its 21st century economic rise.

Indians were eager to hear Mr. Obama overtly mention their hostile neighbor Pakistan as exporter of terrorism, and the president obliged, having earlier secured a prospective 53,000 U.S. jobs from deals struck with India firms.

“I can say today, in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member,” he told the Indian Parliament in a speech that earned him soccer-match like cheers from lawmakers.

He said the United States and India can work together for global security, especially as “India serves on the Security Council over the next two years.”

“Indeed, the just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate,” he said, pledging his support for India’s bid for a permanent seat.

Indian essayist and social historian Mukul Kesavan called Mr. Obama’s speech a recognition of India’s global rise and position.

“It was India’s coming-of-age speech,” he said at a panel discussion on Mr. Obama’s address.

Mr. Obama’s remarks about Pakistan were greeted with a sense of relief by New Delhi, especially since he failed to mention Pakistan in a speech last year on the anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which were carried out by Pakistan-based militants.

“And 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,” he said to a huge round of clapping.

But analysts here say India should not remain obsessive about Pakistan and pitch it as the sole issue on the geostrategic discussion table with Mr. Obama, who leaves for Indonesia on Tuesday for the second leg of his 10-day Asia tour.

Pakistan is not the only strategic issue. I don’t know how much more we need from America when their troops are fighting in Afghanistan and there are drone attacks within Pakistan territory,” said Kanti Bajpai of the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

He added that a “bigger issue is China.”

Mr. Obama took caution to not ruffle feathers in India over the prickly Kashmir issue as he reiterated his policy of non-interference, countering Islamabad’s demand for American engagement in the disputed border region.

At a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr. Obama said the U.S. would not impose itself on Kashmir, saying India and Pakistan need to discuss the issue between themselves.

“I hope that conversation starts soon, maybe not on that flash point [Kashmir] but with confidence building measures,” he said.

“There are longstanding disputes between India and Pakistan, and it is in the interest of both the countries to reduce tension,” Mr. Obama said.

About 65 percent of Kashmir is administered by India and 35 percent by Pakistan.

Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim-majority Indian state in Hindu-majority India, over which India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed neighbors, have fought three wars since 1947.

Farooq Abdullah, a federal minister and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, said India should not expect anything more on Pakistan from Mr. Obama.

“As far as we are concerned it is a problem to be settled bilaterally. Terrorism is also not India’s problem alone,” he said.

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