On first trip to India, Palin talks tough on China, other topics

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By Rama Lakshmi
Sunday, March 20, 2011; 9:57 AM

NEW DELHI - On her first trip to India, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin said she is still thinking about running for president, voiced concerns about China's military rise, criticized green investment and vowed to see the Taj Mahal during her next trip.

Speaking to a hand-picked, elite audience of Indian business tycoons, lawmakers, Bollywood stars, lobbyists and socialites at a packed media conference in New Delhi, Palin deftly handled the question on everyone's minds: whether she would throw her hat in the ring in 2012.

"I am thinking about it," said Palin, who fielded at least three questions on the subject. "I don't think there needs to be a rush . . . I want to find out who else is going to put their name forward in service."

But Palin was not so cautious when she spoke of China and surprised everybody by her unexpected candor about India's neighbor to the north.

In fact, she encouraged her questioner to ask her about China.

"I personally have huge military concerns about what is going on in China," she said. "What's with the buildup? You don't see a tangible outside threat . . . to that country. Is that just for a defensive posture? How can that be? Stockpiling ballistic missiles, submarines, new-age ultramodern fighter aircrafts. It certainly means America needs to be vigilant looking at what China is doing."

Palin, who flew to New Delhi from Taiwan, added that America's economic reliance on China constituted "a dangerous place to be."

Palin's speech, titled "My Vision of America," was the gala event at the end of a two-day conference organized by an Indian weekly magazine. Other international speakers included the feminist writer Germaine Greer, hacker Josh Klein, Pakistani politician Aitzaz Ahsan, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei.

"I am surprised at her openness when speaking about the Chinese threat, especially when she is on Indian soil," said Kanwal Sibal, a former diplomat and a foreign policy columnist. "China will not fail to notice this."

Palin's two-day trip to India came about five months after President Obama's state visit. While Obama and his wife, Michelle, danced and charmed their way into Indian hearts, Palin impressed her audience with strong views on energy security, terrorism, free trade, bailouts and the India-U.S. partnership.

"Sarah Palin held her own very well," said Sachin Pilot, India's deputy minister for communications and information technology. "She came out as an independent thinker. She answered all complicated questions reasonably well,""Anybody who is looking to perform a major role in American politics today does need to engage with India."

But many in the audience felt her lengthy written speech, with its remarks about free markets, small governments and the "beautiful," "vibrant" tea party movement, was directed more at a domestic audience back home than at Indians.

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