Obama calls India natural partner, warns Pak against shielding terrorists

New Delhi: In a stern message to Pakistan, US President Barack Obama has said the safe havens of terrorism within that country “not acceptable” and that those behind the Mumbai attack must face justice.

Ahead of his visit to India, Obama said the US will keep working with India for a future that delivers greater security, prosperity and dignity for all people.

Asserting that his country has been unrelenting in its fight against terrorist groups, he said, "I’ve made it clear that even as the United States works with Pakistan to meet the threat of terrorism, safe havens within Pakistan are not acceptable and that those behind the Mumbai terrorist attack must face justice."

His comment assumes significance as India has recently been having renewed questions over Pakistan’s sincerity in ensuring punishment to the perpetrators of Mumbai attack of November 2008. The questions arose after the attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi was granted bail in the case.

 Obama calls India natural partner, warns Pak against shielding terrorists

US President Barack Obama will be in India on 25 January. AFP

Obama noted that like Indians were tragically killed in the 9/11 attack in New York, Americans were also killed in the 26/11 attack in Mumbai. To send a strong message to the Indian people that “we stand together in defence of our security and our way of life”, he had made Taj hotel in Mumbai his first stop during his first visit to India in 2010, he said in an e-mail interview to India Today.

Upbeat about his upcoming three-day visit to India which he described as a “natural partner”, Obama said he was proud to be the first US President to visit this country twice.

He said he saw it as an opportunity to work with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make concrete progress and to “hopefully begin a new era” in the history between our countries.

Recalling his unveiling his vision during his last visit here, Obama said, "While it’s true that progress has not always come as fast as we would have liked, we’ve succeeded in deepening the US-India relationship across the board."

The US President said Modi’s election and his commitment to a new chapter in the relationship gives the two countries to further energise the partnership. “I’d like to think that the stars are aligned to finally realise the vision I outlined in Parliament (of India)”.

Noting that no two nations agree on everything, he said, “So of course, sometimes India and the United States will disagree. But I believe that we can work through any differences in a spirit of mutual respect”.

He said, “When those of us at the leadership level agree on action, our governments have to actually implement our decisions. We have to make sure our words are matched by deeds.”

The two countries can work together to reduce barriers to trade, investment, and high-tech collaboration, he said, adding American companies are ready to help build the infrastructure that will be the catalyst for the next wave of Indian growth.

He had special praise for Modi, saying “his remarkable life story — from tea-seller to prime minister — is a reflection of the determination of the Indian people to succeed.”

He added that Modi has a clear vision of big things that he wants India to achieve.

Meanwhile, in a separate interview with the India Today, President Obama said "the stars are aligned" to enable the United States and India to forge a global partnership. AFP report said that the interview was published on Friday ahead of his visit to New Delhi.

Obama, who begins an unprecedented second visit by a serving US president on Sunday, told the India Today magazine that he hoped to make "concrete progress" with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a range of issues.

But while outlining areas where the world's two biggest democracies share common goals, Obama put pressure on Modi to do more to help secure a global climate pact.

"I firmly believe that the relationship between the United States and India can be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century," Obama said in the interview conducted by email.

"We're natural partners. As two great democracies, our strength is rooted in the power and potential of our citizens. As entrepreneurial societies, we're global leaders in innovation, science and technology.

"That's why, when I addressed the Indian Parliament on my last visit (in 2010), I outlined my vision for how we could become global partners meeting global challenges... I'd like to think that the stars are aligned to finally realise the vision I outlined."

While observers do not expect any major policy breakthroughs on the three-day trip, both sides say the invitation to Obama for Monday's Republic Day celebrations emphasises a new closeness in sometimes tetchy ties.

Modi was effectively blacklisted by the US until last February when it became clear he had a real prospect of winning elections against the ruling centre-left Congress party.

The Hindu nationalist was chief minister of Gujarat when deadly communal violence erupted in 2002, leading him to be be shunned by Washington and Europe.

But since coming to power, Modi has displayed no ill feeling towards Washington with both countries keen to counter-balance the rise of China.

Climate change however has been a source of friction, with India insisting it will not sign any deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions that threatens its growth at UN climate talks in Paris in December.

It has stuck to its guns even though China and the US have unveiled emissions pledges. India, which suffers regular electricity cuts, is heavily dependent on coal-fired power plants.

"I believe that part of being global partners means working together to meet one of the world’s urgent challenges — climate change," said Obama.

"Even as we recognise that our economies are at different stages of development, we can come together with other nations and achieve a strong global agreement this year in Paris to fight climate change."

Speaking to the NDTV network Thursday, India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the two sides had "different approaches to climate change".

(PTI & AFP)

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Updated Date: Jan 24, 2015 10:16:56 IST