Obama may not change script on Pakistan

President's first stop at Mumbai is significant, say analysts

On Monday, there may be more axe to grind for those unhappy with Obama’s remarks on Pakistan. Obama will be called upon to address the issue all over again on two occasions. There will be a press conference to be addressed by both Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, followed by the US President’s address to Parliament.

It was clear much before his visit that the high-profile visitor may not say anything that will go against India’s western neighbour, for Pakistan is an important strategic ally for Washington. The US is engaged in joint operations with Pakistan in Afghanistan. It is a known fact that Washington needs Islamabad specially because of the geographical location of Pakistan.

Besides, Afghanistan is Pakistan’s neighbour and Islamabad has close proximity to Beijing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Said an analyst: “It would be foolish to expect Obama to criticise Pakistan, that too on Indian soil and in response to a student’s question.”

It is another matter that the Obama visit comes just days after Washington cleared a $2 billion military aid to Islamabad, notwithstanding New Delhi’s protests.   Key officials in the Indian government point out that one should see the positive gestures of the Obama visit: he made the terror-hit Mumbai his first stop, stayed at the iconic Taj Hotel where over 170 people fell to terrorists’ bullets and did not visit Pakistan (unlike his predecessors Bill Clinton and George Bush who made a stopover in Islamabad), and that he chose India for his longest stay abroad after becoming President.

“The President said what best he could,” they underlined. “It is naïve to expect Obama to do an encore of David Cameron (the British Prime Minister who said on his recent Indian visit that Pakistan was exporting terror).”

By Monday morning, Obama may know India’s stand from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a 15-minute one-on-one meeting and the dinner. The tough issues will be further discussed at the bilateral talks between the two sides on Monday.

According to a White House spokesman, the two contentious issues — Pakistan and India’s bid for permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council — may be mentioned by Obama in his address to Parliament on Monday evening. There is a possibility that MPs may be allowed to ask a few questions to the US President.  

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