Nov. 8, 2010— -- In a speech to the Indian Parliament today, President Obama called for India to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council; a huge development in the world of international politics and one virulently opposed by India's nemesis, Pakistan.
"Indeed, the just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate," the president 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.
"And so we look forward to working with India, and other nations that aspire to Security Council membership, to ensure that the Security Council is effective," he said, "that resolutions are implemented and sanctions enforced; and that we strengthen the international norms which recognize the rights and responsibilities of all nations and individuals."
India's desire for a seat on the powerful Security Council has been well-known for years but, until now, the United States refrained from taking a position as others, including Brazil, Egypt, Germany, Japan and South Africa, have also started campaigning for a slot on a reconstituted and reformed council.
The White House also supports Japan's being given a permanent seat, as first pledged by President George W. Bush.
There are five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France. But U.N. officials have for years discussed reforming and expanding the security council to better represent the world.
So, why now?
"This is a decision the president has made because of the strategic importance of India, because the president is fighting for jobs in America, because the president sees a more prosperous and peaceful Asia. India is a cornerstone of that Asian policy," U.S. Ambassador to India Tom Roemer said in an interview with ABC News.
"We have security challenges in Afghanistan, fragility in Pakistan, great economic markets in India. India is a partner strategically in the Indian Ocean and in maritime security and in intelligence sharing. This is really an indispensable partnership, as the president has said."
Pakistan Opposed to Indian Seat
The president will "discuss how we look forward to a reformed Security Council that includes India as a permanent member," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said in a preview of the president's speech.
"This is of course a very important issue to the Indian people and it reflects in an important way the extent to which the United States welcomes India on the world stage as a risen power and as a key partner of ours."
Rhodes said the announcement "ties together a lot of what we've been talking about on the trip. The United States sees India as a nation of over a billion people, as a rising market economy, a rising player in the world stage in institutions like the G20 but also as ... a nation of democratic values and pluralism.
And "I think at this stage we want to send as clear a symbol as possible the extent to which the United States sees this an indispensable partnership between the United States and India," he said.
Pakistan has long opposed India's getting a seat, saying recently, "It is Pakistan's considered view that anything that militates against the regional balance in South Asia is counterproductive and not in the interest of the region and the world."
Asked about Pakistan's opposition to today's announcement, Roemer said, "I think the president has been very clear about this. Pakistan is a very important partner to the United States and so is India. And we can treat both as strategic partners in fact as the president said at a town hall meeting in Mumbai yesterday to a group of young university students, it's in India's interest to have a more stable Pakistan.
"Dr. Singh has said it pretty eloquently, for India to continued to grow at 8, 8.5 and 9 percent growth rates, they need a stable neighborhood," he said of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "So it's really ...very much in the U.S. security interest, India's interest, and certainly in the Pakistani people's interest to see more progress."