Jul 242008

Senator Obama was somewhat tight lipped about what the two talked about during the meeting but the “body language”, as commentators are prone to say, showed that the Afghan leader was happy with the support promised by the Senator. But then Karzai is known to be a very persuasive man

If there was any proof needed that there are no US troops on the ground in Pakistan, it was provided by Senator Barack Obama. Otherwise, he would have been seen having breakfast with them somewhere near Torkham instead of at Camp Eggers near Kabul.

Obama’s much hyped and high profile visit to Afghanistan seemed to be the key event of the week in the region. The presidential candidate of the Democratic Party was at pains to project the image of a presumptive supreme commander visiting his frontline troops.

Obama was heard saying that he considered Afghanistan as the one country that was going to get his attention and assistance in this war against terror — once he became president that is. He is going to raise the number of troops, he is going to inject more funds into the war effort; in short, Obama gave the impression that the United States was there to stay and was in Afghanistan for the long haul.

To the astute observer, this promise of nation building is going to be seen as the corner stone of his foreign policy. The more cynical would perhaps add: “…just as Iraq has been for the Bush Administration!”

Joan Vennochi, writing in the Boston Globe (July 20), says that “when Obama looks into the mirror, he doesn’t just see a president, he sees JFK.” Ah! Reflected glory!

Vennochi goes on to pose the question: “What do you expect from a candidate who already auditioned a quasi-presidential seal with the Latin inscription, “Vero possumus” — “Yes, we can”?

I don’t know what his flight path was but in all probability it took him over Pakistan, the country the Senator wanted to bomb and has vowed to still do so if it came in the way. Well, Senator, Pakistan is not only in the way, but on the way to Afghanistan.

Sidelined from his visit was the most favoured nation, an ally and partner in the war against terror — Pakistan. Not even a “Hey guys, was in the neighbourhood so I thought I’d drop in.”

Those in the habit of reading lips might conclude that the “change” Obama is promising to the American electorate is going to manifest itself more in the profiling of this traditional ally than anywhere else. Bluntly put, Pakistan is no longer going to enjoy that lynchpin status that it somehow has managed to hold on to. All that talk about its “geostrategic” importance that commentators and analysts love to use isn’t going to amount to a tinker’s damn after January 15, 2009, if the Democrats win and Obama occupies the White House.

The Senator also found time to meet with Hamid Karzai, formerly of Brooklyn. Or was it the Bronx? Karzai is now President of that country. I don’t know about the country but he is most certainly President of Kabul. Obama’s views on Pakistan must have found resonance with Karzai — considering that his host is also on record now about sending in his troops into Pakistan to sort out the pesky Taliban and the even more problematic Al Qaeda.

Senator Obama was somewhat tight lipped about what the two talked about during the meeting but the “body language”, as commentators are prone to say, showed that the Afghan leader was happy with the support promised by the Senator. But then Karzai is known to be a very persuasive man.

Here is what I think Senator Obama’s debrief to his foreign policy advisors is going to be when he gets back home: “Look guys, after talking to my good friend Hamid Karzai in Kabul, I have to tell you that we’ve been pressing the wrong button where the Pakistanis are concerned. If you want the Pakistanis to play ball, press the ‘India’ button! That’ll do it every time. Never mind the cricket, the Indian movies and the Samjhota Express, I’m telling you that you should have arranged for me to stop over in New Delhi. That Afghan leader is one smart fox. You know what he said? ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend!’ In any case, there are far more registered voters from India here in the States than there are from Pakistan! Isn’t that right, Michelle?”

The current administration in Pakistan has been in office now for just a shade over a hundred days. That it has survived this long is a commendable feat in political survivalism.

It came to office in a crisis and has gone from one crisis to another since. Some of its problems were inherited and the others it shares with almost every other country in the world. Spiralling costs, inflation, paucity of essential goods, power shortage and so on.

As if all this was not enough, add to it the heavy dose of governing a country that is being torn apart by a combustible mix of jihadis of various hue, who seem well funded and well equipped by some regional power with a vested interest to keep Pakistan destabilised. These guys are getting their lethal ordinance from somewhere.

Prime Minister Gilani, I hear, is about to make an “official” trip to Washington DC. Every prime minister should visit the White House, at least once during their tenure for posterity if for nothing else. Wonder why he’s going there though. He’s got a pretty savvy Ambassador there. One small tip, prime minister: don’t even think of going near a teleprompter. Stick to speaking in Urdu instead, maybe even Seraiki. That’ll throw ‘em!

Mahmud Sipra is a best selling author and an independent columnist. He can be reached at sipraindubai@yahoo.com

Source: Daily Times, 24/7/2008

 Posted by at 8:05 am

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