Saturday, 6 November 2010

Obama begins 10-day overseas tour in India:: 6 NOV' 2010

US President Barack Obama flew into India's commercial capital on Saturday aiming to boost ties and seal big-ticket business deals to secure jobs and exports days after voters punished his Democrats in mid-term elections.

Obama will also visit Indonesia, South Korea and Japan on a 10-day tour that will see Washington push to prevent countries unilaterally devaluing currencies to protect their exports, a top theme at the Group of 20 heads of state meet in Seoul next week.

In Mumbai, Obama's first stop will be the luxury Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, where he will pay respects to the victims of the 2008 attacks at one of the primary targets of gunmen who slaughtered 166 people.

One of the first diplomatic tests for Obama will be at the Taj. Indians will want a strong statement against Pakistan for fostering militants, but Washington must tread a fine line between appeasing New Delhi and supporting its regional ally.

Across town, police have removed coconuts around Mani Bhavan, where Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi stayed while in Mumbai and which now serves as a museum that Obama will visit on Saturday.

He will then attend a meeting with hundreds of US and Indian business leaders. He arrives in New Delhi on Sunday.

Obama's Saturday-to-Monday trip to India started just four days after his Democratic party sustained big election losses tied to the weak economy, raising some doubts over how much the trip can yield given the pressures at home.

But Obama clearly outlined that his goal was to strike "billions of dollars in contracts that will support tens of thousands of American jobs", and stated his intent to "reduce barriers to United States exports and increase access to the Indian market".

"It is hard to overstate the importance of Asia to our economic future," Obama wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times on Friday.

"It can be tempting, in times of economic difficulty, to turn inward, away from trade and commerce with other nations. But in our interconnected world, that is not a path to growth, and that is not a path to jobs. We cannot be shut out of these markets."

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