Permanent UNSC seat ‘difficult’: Obama

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Washington, DC: Ahead of his visit, President Barack Obama on November 1 described India as a “cornerstone” of US engagement in Asia, but held out no assurances on key issues — support for India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council and ending curbs on export of dual-use technology.

Outlining the objectives of his three-day maiden trip beginning on November 6, Obama said that building “a true strategic partnership” with India had been one of  his “highest foreign policy    priorities” since he assumed office in January last year.

The visit would give him an opportunity to work with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bring Indo-US cooperation on a broad range of issues “to a new level,” he told PTI. The Indo-US partnership “is based on both our shared values and our shared interests, and for these reasons, I welcome and support India’s rise as a global power,” the President said.

India’s rise “is in the best interests of both the countries (India and the US), of the region and the world,” he said.

The President answered a wide range of questions covering contentious issues like US curbs on export of dual-use technology items, outsourcing, UNSC membership and Pakistan’s failure to take action against perpetrators of 26/11 attacks.

Asked about the possibility of his announcing lifting of curbs on export of dual-use technology items and more concrete support for India’s permanent membership of UNSC, Obama described the two issues as “very difficult and complicated.”

“Our teams continue to work hard to reach an agreement that strengthens the international non-proliferation system, while treating India in a manner that is consistent with our strategic partnership,” he said in a reference    to export restrictions that cover items which have both peaceful and military usage.

Without committing himself to a firmer support for India’s bid for permanent seat in UNSC, Obama said: “I do also expect to discuss India’s role as an actor on the global stage during my visit.”

When told that there did not seem to be any “big ticket items” on the agenda, Obama responded, “I do not want to pre-empt the announcements that the Prime Minister and I will make while I am in India.”

The President went on to emphasize that Indo-US relationship “now goes well beyond any one particular issue.” He said: “If you look at the breadth of everything we are working on now — from economic engagement to counter terrorism and security cooperation, from clean energy to development it goes  well beyond the type of cooperation that we pursued just a few years ago.”

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