President Barack Obama ended his first trip to India on Monday with a promise to back the South Asian nation's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. leader made the announcement in a speech to India's lawmakers in New Delhi, the nation's capital. India has been seeking permanent membership on the council for years.
The role of the U.N. Security Council is to maintain international peace and security. The five permanent members of the council are the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and France. Actually getting a permanent place for India is another story. But Obama's backing is seen by the nation's leaders as an important diplomatic gesture.
In addition to visiting India, the President and First Lady Michelle Obama will also stop in Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. The First Couple set off on the ten-day tour of Asia on Friday. Obama's goal for the tour is to improve ties between the U.S. and the region, and to promote economic growth and job creation. The President and his team will return to Washington, D.C., on November 14.
A Busy 10 Days
The Obamas began their trip in Mumbai, India, the financial and economic center of the country, on November 6. There, they met with government officials, business leaders and school groups.
Up first on the schedule was a visit to a memorial at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel. The historic hotel was a target of the citywide terror attacks carried out by Pakistan-based Muslim extremists on November 26, 2008. The memorial honors the more than 170 people who died in the attacks. The President and First Lady each laid a white rose at the memorial.
"The Taj has been the symbol of the strength and resilience of the Indian people," Obama said during the service. "We use our visit here to send a very clear message that . . . the United States and India stand united." In his address to the Indian lawmakers on Monday, Obama promised to continue urging Pakistan's leaders to find the groups responsible for the attacks.
Obama's second day in India was lighter than the first. The Presidential visit took place on Diwali, or the Festival of Lights. The five-day religious festival is celebrated each year by Hindus, Sikhs and others . The Obamas spent the holiday visiting with local schoolchildren. The students, dressed in colorful saris, danced for the First Couple and even taught them some moves.
Looking to the Future
On Monday, Michelle Obama joined 15 Indian school girls on a field trip to a museum of Indian craft work. During the tour, the First Lady stressed to the students the importance of education. Most of the children on the trip are the first girls in their families to attend school. Mrs. Obama also encouraged the young women to stay fit, telling them that she likes to exercise because "women have to stay strong."
Early tomorrow, the Obamas will travel to Indonesia, the country in which the President spent four years as a boy. After that, they will fly to Seoul, South Korea, to attend the Group of Twenty, or G-20, economic summit. The conference brings together leaders from 20 wealthy and developing nations and the European Union. They meet twice a year to address challenges that affect the global economy.
The final leg of the tour will be in Japan, where Obama will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.