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In India, Obama Pushes Trade, Security Issues

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In India, Obama Pushes Trade, Security Issues

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In India, Obama Pushes Trade, Security Issues

In India, Obama Pushes Trade, Security Issues

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Speaking to reporters in New Delhi on Monday, President Obama called the relationship between U.S. and India a "defining partnership" of the 21st century. In his first stop on an extended tour of Asia, Obama sat down with India's prime minister and also addressed parliament Monday. Obama aimed to boost trade and get cooperation on anti-terrorism efforts with the visit, and India wanted support in its push for a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

President Obama today called the U.S. relationship with India a defining partnership of the 21st century. He was speaking in New Delhi after meeting with India's prime minister. He called for expanded cooperation on security, economic development and the promotion of democracy worldwide.

India is the first stop on the president's extended tour of Asia. NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with Mr. Obama, and we've got Scott on the line from the press room at the U.S.-India summit.

Scott, thanks for joining us.

SCOTT HORSLEY: It's good to be with you.

MONTAGNE: Right. And it sounds like the president had about as broad an agenda as is possible.

HORSLEY: Yes. He covered a lot of ground today, both in his meeting with the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and later in a speech to India's parliament. He's basically saying that India's help is indispensible if the U.S. and other countries are going to tackle big problems ranging from terrorism to global climate change.

President BARACK OBAMA: It's no coincidence that India is my first stop on a visit to Asia, or that this has been my longest visit to another country since becoming president.

(Soundbite of applause)

Pres. OBAMA: For in Asia, and around the world, India is not simply emerging. India has emerged.

(Soundbite of applause)

HORSLEY: And in recognition of that growing power, Mr. Obama said something today that Indians have been waiting to hear, and that is that the U.S. will back India's push for a permanent spot on the U.N. Security Council. Now, he has cautioned that reform of the Security Council is likely to be a complicated and drawn-out process, but the president says this is just a recognition of the new reality of the 21st century, and India's place in it.

MONTAGNE: And today's formal diplomacy, and those more formal announcements, follow some more personal outreach by the president. Yesterday, he held a town hall meeting with university students in Mumbai, and I gather he got some pretty tough questions from those students about Pakistan.

HORSLEY: Yeah. That's always a sensitive subject here in India. The Indians are wary about the United States' cooperation with Pakistan, its neighbor and rival. It was Pakistani extremists who carried out a deadly attack in Mumbai, two years ago this month. And Mr. Obama was grilled about that by a 19-year-old college student, Afsheen Irani.

Ms. AFSHEEN IRANI (Student): Why is Pakistan so important an ally to America, so far as America has never called it a terrorist state?

Pres. OBAMA: Well, no, no. It's a good question, and I must admit I was expecting it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama said Pakistan is strategically important - not only for the U.S., but for the whole world. And as a result, he said the U.S. is working with the Pakistani government to combat extremism within that country. He actually argued that it's in India's interests, as much as anyone's, to have a stable and prosperous Pakistan next door. The administration has long argued that U.S. ties to India and Pakistan do not have to come at the expense of one another. Not everyone here in India agrees with that.

MONTAGNE: And the White House has been billing this as a trip about job creation as well. Mr. Obama has been playing salesman during the trip. How well has he been doing?

HORSLEY: That's right. His visit to Mumbai over the weekend coincided with a big get-together of U.S. and Indian business leaders. And while that was going on, the administration trumpeted close to $10 billion in U.S. sales to India. Even today, in between his official meetings, the president's dropping in on meetings with some business leaders. The president knows that even as he's traveling around Asia, the big concern for folks back home is jobs. And so the White House is trying to sell the message that this is - this trip is an effort by the president to boost exports, and put more Americans back to work.

MONTAGNE: Scott, thanks so much.

We've been talking with NPR's Scott Horsley, traveling with the president in India.

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