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Obama supports adding India as a permanent member of U.N. Security Council

The president and the first lady visited India and Indonesia, part of a 10-day trip to Asia, the longest foreign trip of Obama's presidency.

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By Emily Wax and Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, November 8, 2010; 11:49 AM

NEW DELHI - President Obama said Monday that the United States would support adding India as a permanent member of an expanded U.N. Security Council - a powerful endorsement of India's growing economic power and global aspirations, but one likely to anger China and Pakistan.

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India has campaigned hard for a U.N. seat, long a subtext of a warming India and U.S. relationship. Obama embraced the idea in a speech to India's parliament that emphasized Washington's efforts to deepen its economic and defense relationship with the world's biggest democracy.

"The United States not only welcomes India as a rising global power, we fervently support it, and we have worked to help make it a reality," Obama said. In Asia and around the world, he said, "India is not simply emerging; India has already emerged. And it is my firm belief that the relationship between the United States and India - bound by our shared interests and values - will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century."

Saying that the United States seeks an "efficient, effective, credible and legitimate" United Nations, Obama told the parliament that "in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council that includes India as a permanent member." He did not say what shape the reforms should take or specify whether India should have veto power, as the five current permanent Security Council members do.

Obama's endorsement does not set a time frame for when India would secure a permanent Security Council seat. Nor does it offer any guarantee that India would secure such a seat.

The pace of reform at the United Nations is notoriously slow, and proposals to expand the Security Council's composition face resistance from a number of other nations, including some current permanent members who have little interest in seeing their power diluted.

India's quest for a seat would like face particular opposition from China, a permanent member of the council and India's economic rival, and from nations and advocacy groups who say India's conduct in the disputed Kashmir region and elsewhere consistently violates key U.N. resolutions.

China's official news agency, Xinhua, reported Obama's support for a permanent Indian Security Council seat in a brief news story without comment.

Ties between India and China, Asia's two nuclear-armed giants, have been growing closer in recent years, with their two-way trade expected to reach $60 billion this year. But they remain more rivals than friends. The two share a disputed 2,100-mile border that has never been delineated and have fought border skirmishes in the past. India has rankled China by hosting the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his government-in-exile, while China's close ties to Pakistan have aroused suspicion in India. Chinese commentators have expressed concerned that the growing relations between India and the United States are an attempt to "encircle" China.

Shortly after the speech, Pakistan expressed opposition to a permanent seat for India and chided Obama's endorsement for adding "complexity to the process" of reforming the Security Council. In a statement, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry cited "India's conduct in relations with its neighbors and its continued flagrant violations of Security Council resolutions" on Kashmir as reasons to discredit the proposal. It said Pakistan hopes the United States would "take a moral view" of the issue and set aside "any temporary expediency or exigencies of power politics."

This summer, Indian security forces shot and killed more than 100 stone-throwing youths in Kashmir. The majority-Muslim Himalayan province is a stubborn point of tension between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan.

More broadly, the U.N. Human Development Report said India fares worse than Pakistan on gender equality issues such as a maternal mortality, education and nutrition.


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