‘Ours Will Be A Defining Partnership Of the 21st Century’

From the time he opened his remarks saying “Namaste” and announced “happily” that he would be visiting India in 2010, US President Barack Obama hit all the right buttons in Washington D.C. on Tuesday to erase any impression that he had downgraded ties with New Delhi in deference to China. Calling India a “rising and responsible global power”, Obama ran through such an exhaustive and expansive agenda between the two countries that any suggestion that New Delhi had been relegated to the margins was pretty much dispelled. A cold, bleak day in Washington that dampened the ceremonial welcome on the South Lawn of the White House and drove it inside was cozied up by warm remarks and sentiments. It was a love-fest alright. Lavishing praise on PM Manmohan Singh, standing next to him at the White House press conference, Obama said India would play a “pivotal role” in Asia and the world, and US-India ties would be the defining partnership of the 21st century. The word China was hardly uttered in the two appearances Obama and Singh made (before and after their one-on-one talks) in the aptly named East Room, but the inference was obvious. US ties with China was entirely different from its dynamic with India, which was based largely on a ideals that are foreign to Beijing. In course of the reassurance, Obama also acknowledged implicitly, probably for the first time by Washington, that the United States historically may have erred in its approach towards Pakistan. “There were probably times when we were just focused on the (Pakistani) military...instead of (engaging its) civil society,” he admitted, when asked about the US policy that had allowed Pakistan to become a heavily armed adversary of India. Pakistan, he said, had to make sure it dealt effectively with extremists in its territory and it seemed Islamabad had realized this. The only wrinkle in an otherwise happy engagement was that the two sides were unable to wrap up the residual issues in the nuclear deal, which Prime Minister Singh admitted still had some Ts to be crossed and Is to be dotted. But the two leaders also announced a raft of agreements, including what the US President joked would be a “Obama-Singh or Singh-Obama” education partnership. With just two weeks left for the climate change meeting in Copenhagen, both sides made “progress” on the issue. “Both President Obama and I have agreed on the need for a substantive and comprehensive outcome, which will cover mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology,” Singh said. “We reaffirmed our intention to work to this end, bilaterally and with all other countries.”

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