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US looks upon India as a 'vital ally'

White House spokesman Tony Snow says that the US looks upon India as an important and vital ally in regional security, global trade and climate change.

world Updated: Jun 20, 2007 20:49 IST

As the India factor in Barack Obama presidential campaign continued to draw media attention, the White House says it looks upon the country as an "important and vital ally" in a whole host of issues.

"President George Bush is proud of our - the growing closeness of the United States and the Indians," White House spokesman Tony Snow said Tuesday. "The United States looks upon India as the world's largest democracy, as an important and vital ally in a whole host of things - regional security, global trade, climate change."

He was responding to a question about the president's views about the Indian American community in the context of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama's allegedly India critical comments. Snow said he was not holding a brief for Senator Obama, "but I don't believe that he made comments of that sort. I do believe that was a staff comment for which he issued apologies."

"But having said that, it is important to realise that I mean, the role of - the importance of India is not to be understated. And we are certainly glad that the relations between the nations continue to draw closer," he added.

Meanwhile, what has come to be variously called Obama's "Punjab Jab", "Punjab-gate" or simply " 'Pun'jab'" against rival Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton for her close India connections continues to draw critical coverage.

Indian American Leadership Initiative, another community organization, said on Tuesday that Obama had allayed "our disappointment by acknowledging that a serious mistake was made by his campaign. We believe Senator Obama's personal response is a step in the right direction."

"Since the memorandum authored by Senator Obama's campaign came to light last Thursday night, the Indian American Leadership Initiative (IALI) has been troubled by the content of the document which attempted to reduce the breadth of Indian American political participation solely to the issue of outsourcing," IALI president Jay Chaudhuri stated.

While Obama had allayed its disappointment, IALI noted, "with growing concern the number of Democratic and Republican candidates and staff who have recently made stereotypical and hurtful public remarks about our community.

"IALI urges all candidates to move beyond the stereotypes and prejudice displayed in the memorandum and recognize the valuable contributions Indian Americans have made to society," Chaudhuri said.

According to The Chicago Sun-Times "this is the third time Obama has blamed staff for mistakes. In May, Obama told leaders of the International Association of Fire Fighters he skipped their New Hampshire meeting because of his scheduling staff."

One of the factors driving the coverage of Obama on this issue is the idea that his campaign was not the type to engage in such attacks.

In his 'The Fix' blog column on the website of the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza suggests that such tactics are especially damaging for Obama because "is widely perceived as a change agent," and "the 'every campaign does it' argument probably isn't good enough for Obama. Whether it is perception or reality, Obama is regarded as having set a higher standard for himself."