Obama Backs U.N. Security Council Seat For India

US President Barack Obama and First Lady

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama participate Monday in a wreath-laying ceremony at Raj Ghat, the memorial to independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, in New Delhi on November 8, 2010. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama on Monday endorsed India's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, saying in a speech in New Delhi that the U.S. and the South Asian nation have one of the "defining partnerships" of the 21st century.

The president's backing for the U.N. seat came in a speech to India's parliament on the third and final day of his visit.

"The just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate," Obama told members of parliament.

"That is why I can say today - in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member," he said to loud applause inside the colonnaded sandstone structure dating from the days of British rule in India.

But none of the five permanent members –- the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China -– is in any hurry to relinquish their veto-wielding seat on the Security Council, so as a practical matter, India would need to wait for a possible expansion of the council, which could take years to bring about.

Obama said repeatedly throughout his three days in India –- first in the financial center of Mumbai and then in the capital of New Delhi — that he views the relationship between the two countries as one of the "defining partnerships" of the 21st century.

"I don't think India is emerging. It has emerged. India is a key actor on the world stage," Obama said in his address to parliament.

Economic and political ties with India - the United States' 12th-largest trading partner - have been steadily growing. But Washington's close, albeit frequently strained, relationship with Pakistan and concerns in America about the outsourcing of U.S. jobs, have not always made for the smoothest of relations between the two nations.

In a nod to economic concerns, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a joint news conference that a "strong, robust, fast-growing United States is in the interests of the world."

"Therefore, anything that would stimulate the underlying growth and policies of entrepreneurship in the United States would help the cause of global prosperity," Singh said.

Since arriving in India, Obama has taken pains to cast his visit as a search for U.S. jobs and benefits to people back home, sensitive to the priorities of U.S. voters who punished the Democratic Party in last week's midterm elections, in part over high unemployment. He touched on the theme again Monday.

"As global partners we can promote prosperity in both our countries," Obama said. "Together, we can create the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future."

The president announced $10 billion in new business deals with India during his visit –- including those in heavy infrastructure projects, a Boeing contract to provide new transport aircraft to India's military and telecommunications deals.

On the political front, many in India see Pakistan as the home base of Muslim extremists and question U.S. support of a longtime archrival. The disputed territory of Kashmir, divided by India and Pakistan along their border, has been a key stumbling block to better relations between the neighbors.

Asked at the news conference whether the U.S. should view Pakistan as a "terrorist state," Obama said with regard to Kashmir that "both Pakistan and India have an interest in reducing tensions.

"I’ve indicated to Prime Minister Singh that we are happy to play any role that the parties think is appropriate in reducing these tensions," the president said.

Obama angered some here when he visited a memorial to victims of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks but didn't mention Pakistan, which was home to the attackers.

"We will continue to insist to Pakistan's leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks be brought to justice," the president said in the address, to loud applause.

Obama departs early Tuesday for Indonesia, the country where he spent four years as a boy. From there, he heads to South Korea for a meeting of the Group of 20 developed and developing nations, and then to Japan for a gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. He returns to Washington on Nov. 14.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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