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    South Asia
     Nov 10, 2010


Ringing endorsement for 'risen' India
By Indrajit Basu

KOLKATA - Countering skeptics' perceptions that the visit would be more style than substance, United States President Barrack Obama concluded his three-day India trip to India on Tuesday after sealing billions of dollars in deals for American companies.

Promising the creation of thousands of jobs for his citizens, he also paved the way for the American high-tech sector to find a lucrative market in India, the world's second-largest country by population.

As a quid pro quo, Obama endorsed India's claim for a permanent seat in an expanded United Nations Security Council, mollified India by finally expressing his admonition for Pakistan for harboring terrorism, and promising India an important place in the US's Asia strategy. In the process, Obama also managed to

 

achieve the US strategic objective of befriending a power like India into containing China, and launched a charm offensive by insisting that the US and India were indispensable partners in the 21st century.

Obama's nine-day Asian trip also includes visits to Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.

According to their joint statement at the end of the visit, Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ''called for an efficient, effective, credible and legitimate United Nations to ensure a just and sustainable international order. Prime Minister Singh welcomed President Obama's affirmation that, in the years ahead, the United States looks forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member."

In celebration of a new-found strength in the US-India relationship, Obama said that in his view India was not a rising power anymore, but "has already risen", while "India's emergence is good for the US and good for the world".

After skirting the issue of terror infrastructure in Pakistan for the two days, Obama on the last day of his visit, addressed India's perhaps most urgent concern by admitting that Pakistan's terror networks were unacceptable.

"We will continue to insist Pakistan's leaders that terror safe havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that terrorists behind Mumbai attacks are bought to justice,” he said.

Indeed, few expected Obama's India trip, coming immediately after the embarrassment of the electoral setback in the mid-term elections, to produce any earth-shaking bilateral agreements. Yet, concluding the three-day visit - the longest foreign trip for him while in office - as he headed for Indonesia, he not only departed with a bag full of economic dividends, but perhaps also altered the history of India, the US and Pakistan.

The biggest dividend came from "several landmark" deals worth $10 billion that the industry of the two countries signed on day one. They mean that Boeing will sell dozens of aircraft to an India carrier and GE will sell hundreds of electric engines. Besides that, new business was promised for Harley Davidson, Duke Medicine of Durham, and Bell Helicopter.

While these deals were big news for the flagging American economy, for Obama the real deal was that they would create 54,000 new jobs for Americans, who are staring at a shortfall of 300,000 new jobs as the unemployment rate hovers near 10%.

Calling India a creator and not a poacher of US jobs, Obama said the relationship between the countries had evolved to a stage where India was "creating jobs, growth, and higher living standards in both our countries."

Still, declaring that these deals barely scratched the potential of India as a future market for America, Obama announced major trade reform that removed from a restricted list three of India's remaining four defense and space entities - the Indian Space Research Organization, the Defense Research & Development Organization and the Bharat Dynamics.

According to space industry experts, this not only gives India's space and missile programs access to cutting-edge technology, it also opens up India's multi-billion dollar high-tech market to US manufacturers of dual-use technology.

Obama also supported India's phase-in to full membership in the world's major non-proliferation regimes that include the Nuclear Supplies' Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group and the Wassenar Arrangement (for dual-use and conventional arms control).

However, wrapping up his praise for India, Obama also asked the country to behave like a "responsible big power". He criticized India for not participating in the global fight against violations of democratic rights in Myanmar, and not implementing enough sanctions on Iran for continuing with its nuclear program.

In his address to the members of the parliament on Monday, he said, "If I can be frank, in international fora, India has often avoided these issues. But speaking up for those who cannot do so for themselves is not interfering in the affairs of other countries."

Obama also lamented India's increasing dependence on the eastern part of the world for trade and added that US values India more in Asia.

"India and the US can be partners in Asia," he said. "Today the US is playing once again a leadership role in Asia - strengthening old alliances; deepening relationships, as we are doing with China; and we are re-engineering with regional organizations in which India is also a partner. Like your neighbors in South Asia, we want India not to ‘Look East', we want India to 'Engage East'," he said.

"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 US and India-bound by our shared interest and values - will one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century," he said.

Indrajit Basu is a Kolkata-based correspondent for Asia Times Online.

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


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