PM's aide defends Bush remark on Indian middle class

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New Delhi, May 6 (UNI) US President George W Bush's remark on the increasing consumption levels of the 350-million strong Indian middle class leading to global food crisis is the international recognition of the country's prosperity and economic development, a top aide of the Prime Minister said today.

In an interaction with journalists at Indian Womens' Press Corps here, Prime Minister's special envoy on climate change Shyam Saran said the statements of President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were the global recognition of the growing business power of the Indian middle class.

''There is nothing wrong with the statement. It is the global recognition of India's prosperity and economic development...and the growing business power of the Indian middle class,'' he added.

Mr Saran, a former foreign secretary, said it was important to realise that global food and energy crises besides climate change were the issues that have to be dealt with internationally.

''Blaming each other won't help. We need to work together to fight all global issues,'' he added.

Mr Saran said the statement by President Bush should be viewed in entirety and proper context.

During a visit to World Wide Technology, Inc. in Missouri recently, President Bush said the affluence of the middle class in India had resulted in higher consumption and an increase in demand for better food and nutrition, triggering the price rise.

''There are 350 million people in India who are classified as middle class. Their middle class is larger than our entire population. And when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food. And so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up,'' he said.

Earlier Mr Rice had said that ''an improvement in the diets of people in India and China'' had resulted in skyrocketing food prices around the world.

While commenting on the economy, President Bush said that an increase in demand worldwide had led to ''prosperity in the developing world, which is good''.

''It's going to be good for you because you'll be selling products into countries -- big countries perhaps -- and it's hard to sell products into countries that aren't prosperous. In other words, the more prosperous the world is, the more opportunity there is. It also, however, increases demand,'' he added.

The statement had evoked strong reactions from the political parties across the country.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday evaded queries on the remarks. ''I don't have to comment on whatever was stated by others,'' he said at the Padma awards function at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

''I don't want to get into arguments with foreign dignitaries,'' the Prime Minister said.

Asked about the Opposition criticising him for maintaining a silence on the issue, he said the opposition parties were in the habit of raising allegations against him on everything.

UNI AJ-AG MIR KP1348

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