Obama: US, India Can be ‘Best Partners’

Obama: US, India Can be ‘Best Partners’Obama: US, India Can be ‘Best Partners’

US President Barack Obama rounded off his visit to India Tuesday with the ambitious claim that “India can be America’s best partner” in the 21st century, underlining the realization of its need to find a counterweight to the rising power of China in the region.

Obama balanced his bullishness with a few words of warning on the need for India to protect religious freedom and women’s rights, but was determined to play up the common ground shared by the world’s two largest democracies, Reuters reported.

“Despite our imperfections, our two nations possess the keys to progress in the century ahead. We vote in free elections. We work and we build and we innovate,” Obama said. “We respect human rights and human dignity.”

His speech came at the end of a two-day visit that saw multi-billion pledges of US investment in a country that is lagging its eastern rival in economic and political clout.

Trade relations between the two have been rocky for much of recent history, with the US in particular frustrated at India’s protection of its domestic industries and agriculture.

India only accounts for 2 percent of US imports and one percent of its exports, Obama said. While annual bilateral trade had reached $100 billion, that is less than a fifth of US trade with India’s neighbor, China.

Relations have started to thaw in recent months, however, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi placed a greater emphasis on attracting foreign investment to the country. In return, the US has dropped some of its objections to India’s agricultural subsidies.

The two leaders also reached an agreement in principle to unblock trade in civil nuclear technology, an area where India is already trying to attract investment from Russia.