Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday India's growing influence needs to be taken into account in United Nations reforms. But in comments after talks with Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, she stopped short of endorsing U.N. Security Council membership for India.
India has been openly campaigning for a seat on the Security Council in cooperation with three other would-be members, Germany, Brazil and Japan. And in his talks in Washington, Foreign Minister Singh continued the effort at persuasion, but received no commitment from the Bush administration. At a joint news conference with Secretary Rice, following a day of talks including a White House meeting with President Bush, Mr. Singh said India is qualified for a seat on an expanded U.N. Security Council by any criteria.For her part, Ms. Rice said India's growing influence in international affairs will, in her words, "have to be accommodated" when reform of the Security Council and other U.N. structures are considered, though her comments stopped short of the outright support the United States has given to Japan's bid. Under questioning, Ms. Rice defended the approach to Japan and said her newly named special envoy for U.N. reform, Shirin Tahir-Kheli, will be visiting India for further talks on the issue. Ms. Rice said Ambassador Tahir-Kheli's talks in India and elsewhere will be aimed at building a consensus on U.N. reform, in the hope the process can go forward without acrimony. The secretary's talks with Mr. Singh were a follow-up to meetings they had in New Delhi last month, when the two governments agreed to expand defense and energy cooperation. Shortly after the Rice visit to India, the Bush administration announced a decision, over which Mr. Singh expressed deep disappointment, to sell F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. But White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said the issue did not come up in the meeting between President Bush and Mr. Singh, who told reporters later U.S.-Indian relations had never been better. The talks here produced, among other things a decision to set up a top-level working group on energy issues, including growing international competition for oil supplies. Mr. Singh said his cabinet colleague, Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee, will visit Washington "very soon" to advance the dialogue on defense matters.