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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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But within India, which a few weeks ago was elected one of 10 rotating members of the Security Council, getting a permanent seat is seen as an honor and a recognition of power that the growing economic powerhouse has earned.

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One Indian announcer praised Obama's endorsement of India as a "tribute to 1.2 billion people." Others called it an high note coming on the third and last day of Obama's India trip.

"India's position has been that we are not asking this prematurely, we are asking for it at a time when it is more or less irrefutable," said Srinath Raghavan, a senior Fellow at New Delhi's Center for Policy Research. "The key attribute of a great power is not just military or economic power, but the ability to set the agenda of international politics. The U.N. Security Council has a great deal of control over what is discussed."

Japan is the only other nation Obama has endorsed for a permanent seat on the Security Council.

It was not clear until shortly before his parliamentary address that Obama would call for India to join an expanded council on a permanent basis. Before the president left Washington, he said that a permanent seat for India was "complicated" - a statement that triggered anger here.

(India was offered a permanent seat on the council 55 years ago, in 1955. But that offer, made by the United States and the Soviet Union, was declined by India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru said the seat should be given to China instead.)

In his address, Obama noted that India would hold one of the temporary seats on the Security Council for the next two years.

Earlier Monday, Obama pledged to strengthen U.S.-India efforts to fight and prevent terrorism and to work with all South Asian nations to deny safe havens to terrorists.

But at a joint news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Obama steered clear of the contentious issue of trying to mediate long-standing tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

Obama said the United States "cannot impose a solution" between India and Pakistan. He said his country is "happy to play any role the parties think is appropriate" but added that the two neighbors will have to "find mechanisms to work out these very difficult issues."

These were heartening words for Indian officials, who want the United States to play a role in curbing the activities of Islamic militant groups in Pakistan but at the same time stay out of facilitating a resolution over Kashmir.

The Muslim-majority province has been demanding independence from India for many decades now, and Pakistan has supported those aspirations by sending trained militants into Kashmir to aid in the struggle. The two nations have fought three wars since gaining independence from British colonial rule.


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