United States President Barack Obama was more than generous when talking about the great Indian experiment in democracy but that did not prevent him from pointing out that in the international arena it did not always speak its mind, as it should, on “bankrupt regimes” like those in Myanmar.

“When peaceful democratic movements are suppressed — as in Burma [Myanmar] — then the democracies of the world cannot remain silent,” he said in his 40-minute address to MPs in Parliament on Monday. “For, it is unacceptable to gun down peaceful protestors and incarcerate political prisoners decade after decade.”

“If I can be frank,” he added, “India has often avoided these issues.” Speaking on such issues did not translate into interfering in the internal affairs of other countries or violating principles of sovereignty. “It meant staying true to our own democratic principles, speaking for those who cannot and giving meaning to human rights.”

Mr. Obama said the aspirations of an entire people had been held hostage to the greed and paranoia of the “bankrupt regime” in Myanmar.

In fact, India had always supported peoples in their struggles for freedom from colonial rule and their fight in the right to self-determination. He was convinced that India and the U.S. could together show that democracy, more than any other form of government, delivered for the common man.

While the audience repeatedly broke into loud applause when Mr. Obama talked about America looking forward to reform in the United Nations and India getting a permanent seat in the Security Council, his remarks on Myanmar — as also on Iran — were heard in silence. The reference to Iran came when he talked of the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. While every nation had the right to peaceful nuclear energy, every nation must meet its international obligations, he said referring to Iran. There was a common shared goal of securing the world's nuclear materials, and clearly he suggested that India was also expected to play a role in this. Together India and the U.S. could pursue the vision espoused by Indian leaders of a world without nuclear weapons, he said referring indirectly to the proposals made by Rajiv Gandhi when he was Prime Minister.

President Obama talked about a historic partnership between the two countries and said as India moved forward and became a rising power, the U.S. would not simply be cheering from the sidelines but would be right there, shoulder to shoulder. “Because we believe in the promise of India.”


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