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Obama supports India on permanent UNSC seat

New Delhi: President Barack Obama backed India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council today, a dramatic diplomatic gesture to his hosts as he wrapped up his three-day visit.

“The just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate,” Obama said in prepared remarks. “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 was making the announcement in a speech to the Parliament on the third and final day of his visit. In doing so, he fulfilled what was perhaps India’s dearest wish for Obama’s trip here. India has been pushing for permanent Security Council membership for years.

The announcement does not mean that India will join the five current permanent Security Council members anytime soon. The US is backing its membership only in the context of unspecified reforms to the council that could take years to bring about.

That makes Obama’s announcement more of a diplomatic gesture than a concrete step. Nonetheless, it underscores the importance the US places on fostering ties with India, something Obama has been seeking to accomplish throughout his time here.

Obama said repeatedly throughout his three days in India — first in Mumbai and then in the national capital — that he views the relationship between the two countries as one of the “defining partnerships” of the 21st century. He set out to prove it by making India the first stop on a four-country tour of Asia, and then through economic announcements, cultural outreach and finally the announcement about the UN Security Council.

India has sought permanent council membership as a recognition of its surging economic clout and its increased stature in world affairs. The US endorsement is certain to deepen ties between the two countries and could also send Obama’s popularity in India skyrocketing to a level comparable to that enjoyed by George W. Bush. The former president is seen as a hero here for helping end India’s nuclear isolation.

Obama became the second US President to address the joint session of the Parliament during his three-day India trip, marked by unprecedented warmth and bonhomie.

Vice-President Hamid Ansari welcomed the US President and reiterated the common ideals that the two democracies stood for.

Obama stood to a rousing welcome by the MPs. The Obama charm offensive continued when he started his address by saying ‘dhanyawad India’ in broken Hindi. He said he was proud to address the Parliament of the world’s largest democracy.

Obama started his speech by repeating what might become a popular slogan in future: that India is not emerging, it has already emerged.

He also invoked his idols Mahatma Gandhi and US civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King in his address.

“I might not be standing in front of you as President of the US had it not been for Mahatma Gandhi and his message that inspired the Americans,” Obama said.

It was for the first time that teleprompters were installed in the Parliament to help the visiting US President deliver his speech.

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