M A I N   N E W S

Yes, he can!
Barack Obama delivers by promising to back India’s bid for a UNSC permanent seat, lifts hi-tech curbs on ISRO and DRDO and signs a slew of bilateral pacts
Anita Katyal and Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 8
US president Barack Obama today disarmed his hosts and silenced critics with his dramatic declaration backing India’s ambitions for permanent seat on the UN Security Council and his unequivocal message to Pakistan that terrorists behind the Mumbai massacre be brought to justice.

“The just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective,credible and legitimate. That is why I can say today - in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member,” Obama told Indian lawmakers, who received his support with a thunderous applause. His declaration was not totally unexpected as he had hinted at this during his media interaction at the Hyderabad House earlier during the day when he refused to take a question on this issue, stating that he would be speaking on the subject during his speech to MPs.

His declaration was not totally unexpected as he had hinted at this during his media interaction at the Hyderabad House earlier during the day when he refused to take a question on this issue, stating that he would be speaking on the subject during his speech to MPs.

These and other lucid observations were part of President Obama’s speech to members of both houses of Parliament in the high-domed Central Hall.

Obama’s support today, however, does not mean that India will soon be joining the charmed circle of the present five permanent members of UN Security Council. On the contrary, this could take years as the US president qualified his statement by backing India claims in a reformed Security Council, which could take several years to accomplish. Nevertheless, India has reason to be pleased with this announcement as the US has, so far, been chary of backing its quest for a seat alongside the P-5. India has been pushing hard for such a place for several years now on the plea that it has emerged as an important political and economic force in the changed world order.

The US president’s speech, which was interspersed with several India-specific references and continuously underlined the fast-improving partnership between New Delhi and Washington, was attended by a packed House, which included Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Cabinet ministers and members of the two Houses of Parliament.

If Obama’s support to India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council was aimed to please the hosts, the visiting President was equally forthright when he reminded India that this membership also comes with greater responsibilities which require it to spell out its position on issues like human rights violations.

All those who aspire to the membership of the Security Council, he emphasised, have to ensure the effective implementation of its resolutions and enforcement of sanctions.

Obama, who was given a standing ovation at the end of his mesmerising speech, also pleased his hosts with a specific mention to the terrorist organisations being harboured by Pakistan. He was probably taking heed of criticism that he had remained silent on Pakistan’s role in fomenting terrorism,espeically its role in the 26/11 attacks. Obama did a course correction this evening. “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 must be brought to justice,” Obama said refering to America’s ongoing strategy to defeat and dismantle Al-Qaida networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

While speaking on Iran's nuclear programme, he said the US and India "can pursue" the goal of securing the world's vulnerable nuclear material. "We can make it clear that even as every nation has the right to peaceful nuclear energy, every nation must also meet its international obligation, and that includes the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said.





‘Bahut, bahut, dhanyavad’

Barack Obama interspersed his 20-minute address to Parliament on Monday by frequent allusion to India’s greatness, its rich cultural diversity and its great leaders who influenced the course of world civilisations and history.

He began his speech by declaring in Hindi, “Bahut, bahut, dhanyavad (Many, many thanks), followed by quoting Rabindranath Tagore: “With poets who imagined a future, where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.”

He drew the maximum applause when he frankly admitted, “I might not be standing before you today, as President of the US, had it not been for Gandhi.” He ended his speech with the call “Jai Hind.”

Sonia in red saree

Sonia Gandhi looked resplendent in a red saree as she occupied a seat next to former PM HD Deve Gowda. When everyone rose to welcome Obama, Gowda seemed to have some difficulty. Immediately Sonia signalled Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and he came to Gowda’s aid.

Industry presence

The Joint Press conference by Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh was attended by a virtual who’s who of the industry. Among those present were Ratan Tata, Deepak Parekh, Chanda Kochhar, Kiran Majumdar Shaw, Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Mittal from the Indian side.

(Contributed by Faraz Ahmad, Ajay Banerjee and Aditi Tandon)





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