India trip shows importance Obama places on ties: US daily

Saturday, November 6, 2010

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama will spend three days in India, the longest foreign stay of his presidency. This is “a clear sign of the importance” the US president places on ties with India, an editorial in a leading US daily said.

The editorial also said that Obama “needs to press Pakistan a lot harder to bring the Mumbai bombers to justice” and resolve the “new tensions” in the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.

In an editorial Saturday, the New York Times said: “Obama will spend three days in India beginning on Saturday - the longest foreign stay of his presidency. Indians are still feeling anxious and insufficiently loved. But the trip is a clear a sign of the importance that Obama places on the relationship. As he should.”

The daily said: “It is up to Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take this complex relationship to a more sustainable level.”

“Ahead of the trip, much of the focus has been on defence and trade deals that will produce jobs. Those are undeniably important. But the trip will be a failure if it does not also deal with strategic issues,” it added.

Obama, along with wife Michelle and top officials, arrives in India Saturday. He leaves for Indonesia Tuesday. He also goes to South Korea and then ends the tour by visiting Japan.

The editorial observed that “India is anxious about America’s plans for Afghanistan and Washington’s close ties with Pakistan - base for insurgencies that threaten all three countries. The Indian-Pakistan nuclear rivalry remains dangerous. And so long as Pakistan’s army sees India as its main threat, it will never fully take on the Taliban”.

“…Obama still needs to nudge India to resume serious talks with Pakistan over Kashmir and take other steps to help calm Pakistan’s fears including pursuing a trade agreement…(The US president) also needs to press Pakistan a lot harder to bring the Mumbai bombers to justice.”

As many as 166 people were killed in the Nov 26-29, 2008 terror attack when ten gunmen sneaked into Mumbai from Pakistan and let loose a reign of terror. Obama, who lands in Mumbai Saturday, will stay at the sea-side Taj hotel, one of the major places targetted in the carnage.

The editorial stated: “New Delhi did not retaliate after the 2008 attack - a testimony to Singh’s wise leadership. We hope that the president’s top aides have a plan for how they would tamp things down if Pakistani-based terrorists strike India again. There are many other challenges, including managing the rise of China, that can be dealt with more effectively if Washington and New Delhi work together.”

It went on to say that there are “real differences that need to be addressed”.

Obama is pushing New Delhi to lift a cap on foreign investment in the defence sector while India wants more visas so high-tech workers can move to the US. “The two countries need to find ways to cooperate on trade liberalization and climate change.”

On the civil nuclear deal, the daily said: “It is a grim irony that the nuclear deal, which was sold as essential to removing a serious irritant in Indian-American relations, is now causing new tensions. The two sides must find a way to resolve them.”

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