U.S. politician Sarah Palin stressed the importance of America's ties with India, saying they were based on the shared values of freedom and free-market capitalism, while sounding a warning note on China's rise during a speech Saturday in New Delhi.
The visit to India is a rare foreign venture for the ex-Alaska governor and reality TV star, who was John McCain's running mate in his failed 2008 campaign for president. The trip, which also includes a stop in Israel, is raising speculation Palin wants to burnish her foreign policy credentials ahead of a possible 2012 presidential run.
Palin told a well-heeled audience of Indian business leaders, professionals and socialites that U.S.-Indian relations were "key to the future of our world."
"We're going to need each other, especially as these other regions rise," she said, in an apparent reference to China, during a Q&A that followed a keynote speech titled "My Vision of America."
"Free people that make up a free country don't wage war on another free country," she said. "I want peace on Earth."
She questioned the Chinese military's ascent, saying the Communist country's stockpiling of ballistic missiles, submarines and "new-age, ultramodern aircraft" seemed unjustified when it did not face an outside threat.
"What's with the military buildup?" she said. "China's military growth can't just be for defensive purposes."
Reporters who had been assured access were barred at the last minute. But the speech was shown on Indian television and in a live webcast.
Palin was coy about whether she planned to run for the White House, but at times sounded like she was campaigning. She took a swipe at President Barack Obama and what she described as his "dithering" response to the political upheaval in the Middle East, saying he "should have done more for Arab protesters."
Obama visited India in November during a wider Asian tour, affirming the country's growing importance on the global scene.
Palin said the Republican Party's apparatus was at times frustrating to deal with, but said presidents Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln were role models and reasons for why she joined the party.
She also took aim at one of her favorite targets, the U.S. media.
She accused them of failing "to set the record straight" and joked that they willfully cost her and McCain the 2008 election.
"I will not sit back and take media criticism," Palin said. "Too often, Republicans, I don't know, they kind of have the fighting instinct of sheep."
Palin is due to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during her visit to the Jewish state.