NEW DELHI – President Barack Obama on Monday backed India for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, a dramatic diplomatic gesture to his hosts at the end of his first visit to this booming nation.
Obama made the announcement in a speech to India's parliament on the third and final day of his stay. In doing so, he fulfilled what was perhaps India's dearest wish for Obama's trip here. India has sought permanent Security Council membership for years.
"The just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate," Obama said. "That is why I can say today — in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member."
The announcement brought the loudest applause of Obama's speech. But it does not mean that India will join the five permanent Security Council members anytime soon. The U.S. is backing India's membership only in the context of unspecified reforms to the council that could take years to bring about.
That makes Obama's announcement more of a diplomatic gesture than a concrete step. Nonetheless, it underscores the importance the U.S. places on fostering ties with this nation of 1.2 billion people, something Obama has been seeking to accomplish throughout his time here.