US President Barack Obama who is on his maiden visit to India praised the relationship between both countries as one of the "defining partnerships of the 21st century” .
Obama and Singh after a press conference in New Delhi
Hailing the deep and close ties, US president Barack Obama said India had established itself as a world power and as a natural ally of the United States on the global stage and promised to work as equal partners on projects in Afghanistan and broaden the dialogue to include nuclear proliferation and regional security in East Asia.
Getting into the groove
Obama’s first visit to India has been slated a success as he and his wife, Michele, have got into the groove in many ways with sections of both India’s political and business classes and students, villagers and artisans.
Michelle Obama speaking to students during a visit to the National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum in New Delhi
Kicking off his visit from Mumbai, India’s financial capital, Obama struck the right note: "This is my first trip to India but this will be my longest visit to another country since becoming President."
In the financial capital both the First Lady and Obama also interacted with college students and broke into an impromptu jig while meeting students in a primary school during Diwali celebrations.
Deals and "deliverables"
Promising to remove restrictions on sensitive high-tech exports, a nagging irritant in the evolution of bilateral ties, Obama declared deals worth $15 billion 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.
“I believe that the relationship between the US and India will be one of the defining and indispensable partnerships of the 21st century. 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.”
It's not the Taj Mahal, but nevertheless (Barack and Michelle Obama in front of Humayun's tomb in New Delhi)
A win-win situation
This sentiment reciprocated by Indian Prime Minister Manmmohan 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 Prime Minister Singh, Obama said that while both India and Pakistan had an interest in reducing tensions in the region, the U.S. "cannot impose a solution to these problems". He made it clear that it was up to India and Pakistan to settle their differences: "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."
Engagement, including the 'K' issue
Singh pointed out that he was willing to engage Pakistan on all issues including Kashmir but not when the terror infrastructure was still in tact: "We are committed to engage 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."
In his speech to the Indian parliament, Obama also addressed the issue of New Delhi's bid for a permanent place on U.N. Security Council.
He leaves for Indonesia on Tuesday and then to South Korea and Japan in his 10-day Asia trip.
Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Arun Chowdhury