NEW DELHI — US conservative champion Sarah Palin on Saturday delivered a speech in India designed to boost her record on the international stage as she considers a run for the White House.
Palin, accompanied by her husband Todd, had positive words to say about India's rapid economic progress but voiced concerns over the military build-up of Asia's other emerging economic giant, China, and was coy on her presidential ambitions.
She was visiting New Delhi before heading to Israel during a short tour that many US observers see as an attempt to tackle accusations that she lacks foreign affairs experience.
"The optimistic, pioneering spirit of the United States is the same spirit of India's progress too," she said, welcoming the rapid economic boom that India has enjoyed since free market reforms were brought in 20 years ago.
"America has long been famous for our rags-to-riches stories, and now India is too. Be proud of that. It is so inspiring," she said.
The former Alaska governor, who shot to fame as the unsuccessful vice-presidential candidate in 2008, has travelled little outside the United States and has been fighting a reputation of poor knowledge on global issues.
Before being picked as John McCain's running mate, she had only been overseas to meet US soldiers serving in the Middle East.
An arch-conservative within American politics, Palin stressed her belief in individual freedom and minimal government interference, while expressing concerns about China's rise as a major world power.
"China has a choice -- they can either become part of a path that many countries are on to seek human rights and democracy and freedom, or they can take another path," she told the India Today Conclave.
"I personally have huge military concerns about China stockpiling ballistic missiles and submarines and new age, ultra-modern aircraft. If that is just for a defensive posture, how could it be?"
"What's with the military build-up?" she asked, adding that America must "exert constructive pressure on China to make that right choice in what path they want to travel down."
Palin also addressed domestic American issues such as energy security, job losses and taxes in an attempt to target voters back home through her mantra of "small community values".
"Government should essentially get out the way," she said.
Palin said she had been inspired when writing her speech by a drawing in her kitchen in Alaska of Mother Theresa holding a baby.
"Perhaps the greatest message she gave to the world is the value and dignity of human life, and the sanctity of life," said Palin, who like the late Catholic nun opposes abortion.
With US presidential elections looming next year, Palin repeated that she was undecided whether to run for the Republican nomination to take on Barack Obama.
"I don't know yet," she said. "I don't think there needs to be a rush to get out there as a declared candidate.
"It is a life-changing decision that so affects one's family."
She criticised the mainstream media in the US for labelling her as naive on foreign policy issues and said that she would always fight to defend herself.
"You can't rely on the mainstream media to set the record straight," she said. "I will put my foot down to ensure that people will have the right information."
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »