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UNSC deal: Best kept secret

The trip’s biggest announcement was also the admnistration’s best held secret.

world Updated: Nov 09, 2010 01:36 IST
Yashwant Raj

The trip’s biggest announcement was also the admnistration’s best held secret.

There was never a hint of President Barack Obama’s endorsement of India’s longstanding claim to a permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

Even Indian government officials were surprised. They have said there were some indications that the president might make some encouraging statements but no one expected him to go the whole distance.

Even the think tank experts did not think this far. “I am surprised,” said Richard Fontaine of the Center for New American Security, who recently co-authored a paper recommending US endorsement of India’s seat.

“The administration kept it a closely held secret,” said a person familiar with the deliberations, adding, “and no one wanted to pre-empt the president on what was going to be the crowning glory of the trip.”

The decision to go the whole distance was taken at the very top with the president weighing in for India, said people familiar with the deliberations.

Among those pulling strongly in favour included secretary of state Hillary Clinton, under secretary of state for political affairs William Burns, senior director of multilateral affairs at the National Security Council Samantha Powers and Anish Goel, acting senior director also at the NSC.

Those opposed to it were apparently the Af-Pak officials and those running US affairs. Both groups were concerned about what other US allies, including Pakistan, would think.

Those in favour prevailed. Obama saved the announcement for the address to the joint sitting of the Parliament.

Here is how they held it close to their chest. “Given India’s rise and its significance, we believe that India will be a central part of any consideration of a reformed Security Council,” said William Burns at a White House briefing on Obama’s trip.