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World

Obama wraps up India visit with praise and promises

The US president, on his maiden visit to India, praised the relationship between both countries and endorsed the idea of giving India more influence at the UN.

Barack Obama, Manmohan Singh embrace

Obama's visit to India showed the strength of ties between the two nations

At the end of his three-day visit to India, US President Barack Obama said he backed the country's bid for a permanent seat on a "reformed" UN Security Council "in the years ahead."

His statement, made in an address to members of both of India's Houses of Parliament, was greeted with thunderous desk-thumping.

While clearly indicating that any such move lies well in the future, the comment, and the praise-filled speech he gave, was considered by many to be a major sign of growing economic and security ties between India and the United States.

In his speech, Obama said the country had established itself as a world power and as a natural ally of the United States on the global stage. He promised the two countries would work as equal partners on projects in Afghanistan, as well as broaden their dialogue to include nuclear proliferation and regional security in East Asia.

Diwali dance

Diwali lamps

Michelle Obama danced at a celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights

Overall, Obama's visit to India was seen as a success. He and his wife, Michelle, reached out to sections of the country's political and business classes, as well as students, villagers and artisans.

Kicking off his visit in Mumbai, India's financial capital, Obama pleased the crowd by saying this was his first visit to India but "my longest visit to another country since becoming president."

In Mumbai, both the first lady and the president interacted with college students, and the first lady broke into an impromptu dance while meeting students in a primary school during a celebration of the Hindu festival of Diwali.

Promising to remove restrictions on sensitive high-tech exports - a nagging irritant in the evolution of bilateral ties - Obama declared deals worth $15 billion (10.6 billion euros) that would support some 54,000 American jobs and seek to answer critics back home.

His description of India as a world power set the tone for negotiations with the political leadership in New Delhi that saw a raft of commercial deals signed and agreements to cooperate more closely in agriculture, health and energy.

President Obama and First Lady at Humayun's Tomb

A visit to Humayun's Tomb in New Delhi was part of the program

'Defining and indispensible partnership'

"I believe that the relationship between the US and India will be one of the defining and indispensable partnerships of the 21st century," said Obama.

"Our nations are the two largest democracies on earth. We are bound by a common language and common values, shared aspirations and a shared belief that opportunity should be limited only by how hard you are willing to work, only by how hard you are willing to try."

This sentiment was reciprocated by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"The new deals that have been struck, they all happen to be in infrastructure. And infrastructure today is the biggest bottleneck to the faster growth of India, to the faster growth of employment. And these deals the president has mentioned are truly an example of trade being a win-win situation for both countries."

Alongside Singh, Obama said while both India and Pakistan had an interest in reducing tensions in the region, the US "cannot impose a solution to these problems." He made it clear that it was up to India and Pakistan to settle their differences.

Obama walking on red carpet in front of troops

Obama inspected the troops at the Presidential Palace in New Dehli

"I am absolutely convinced that it is in both India's and Pakistan's interest to reduce tensions and that will enable them, I think, to focus on the range of both challenges and opportunities each country faces," he said.

Singh pointed out that he was willing to engage Pakistan on all issues including Kashmir but not when the terror infrastructure was still intact.

"We are committed to engaging Pakistan, we are committed to resolve all outstanding issues between our two countries including the word 'K', we are not afraid of that. But it is our request that you cannot simultaneously be talking and at the same time, the terror machine is active as ever before," he said.

Obama continues his 10-day Asia trip in Indonesia on Tuesday, and then travels on to South Korea and Japan.

Author: Murali Krishnan/ja
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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