Obama's Pak spin to GenNext

Obama's Pak spin to GenNext

Presidential diplospeak

Obama's Pak spin to GenNext

After having sewn up on Day 1 some much-needed business deals to create over 50,000 jobs to shore up his dipping popularity back home, Obama on Sunday spent over an hour at St Xavier’s College, here, answering some “tough” questions from a gathering of about 300 students in a town-hall type interaction. 

Dressed informally in rolled up white shirt, the President moved around in an open courtyard with a cordless mike in hand and gave detailed answers to six questions he took in his measured manner, though even the youngsters would have noticed how cleverly he dodged pointed questions on Pakistan–his administration’s Achilles’ heels.

When a girl student asked him why the United States had not labelled Pakistan “a terrorist state,” Obama went into long-winded explanation, saying Pakistan “is a country whose people have enormous potential, but it is also right now a country that within it has some of the extremist elements.”

He said the United States “is committed to working with the Pakistani government in order to eradicate this extremism that we consider a cancer within the country.”
Sharing New Delhi’s perception that progress by Islamabad in tackling terror was not quick enough, Obama nudged India to begin a dialogue with its neighbour, saying New Delhi has “the biggest stake in a successful and stable Pakistan”.

Hope

“My hope is that over time, trust develops between the two countries, that dialogue begins, perhaps on less controversial issues, building up to more controversial issues,” he said.

Obama, who had received criticism for failing to mention Pakistan in his speech on Saturday at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel before survivors of the 26/11 carnage, underlined that it was in India’s interest to remove the “distraction” of insecurity, a euphemism for Pakistan-origin terror, in the region when it was moving ahead on the global economic stage.

“Obviously, the history between India and Pakistan is incredibly complex and born out of much tragedy and violence. It may be surprising, but I am absolutely convinced that the country which has the biggest stake in Pakistan’s success is India,” Obama said.

“If Pakistan is unstable, that’s bad for India. If Pakistan is stable and prosperous, that’s good because India is on the move,” he added.

He acknowledged that some elements in Pakistan that are affiliated with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Toiba are “irreconcilable” and said there needs to be a military response in a “significant, ongoing” way against those who perpetrate violence like they did in Mumbai and New York.

The first question Obama took, ‘What do you think about jihad’ made him go into a long discourse to say, “Well, the phrase has a lot of meanings within Islam and is subject to a lot of different interpretations,” adding, “all of us recognise that this great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted... (and) one of the challenges that we face is how do we isolate those who have these distorted notions of religious war.”

The students also asked him about his government’s negotiations with the taliban in Afghanistan, about spirituality and how he applies ‘Gandhian principles.’ “I’m often frustrated by how far I fall short of their example,” he said, referring to both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, whom he often admires.

“But I do think that at my best what I’m trying to do is to apply principles that fundamentally come down to something shared in all the world’s religions, which is to see yourself in other people.”

The students and faculty who represented five Mumbai colleges, were full of praise for the US President, for “his cuteness,” as one female student said, to his basketball skills, to his respect for Gandhian ideals. “We call him the world king, king of the world,” said 20-year-old Chetman Rawal.

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