Tag Archive: Barack Obama


Zardari’s charm offensive…..

Those who were upset about Obama’s Indian visit ignoring Pakistan should have some sigh of relief; Pakistan’s long-term friend who knows sensitivities of the Pakistani nation, has decided to balance the act. Is it a direct outcome of President Zardari’s charms he was trying to use on Chinese leaders ever since his installation, only the time will tell.  Internet News sites have reported that the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, will visit Pakistan next month for talks aimed at “deepening strategic cooperation”, Beijing announced on Friday. During talks in Guangzhou with Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, Mr. Wen said he would press for the restructuring of ties to enable “formal and structured dialogue” at the ministerial level, the official Associated Press of Pakistan news agency reported.

The proposed change in the way the China-Pakistan joint economic council works, in effect, replicates the structure of the United States’ “strategic dialogue” with Pakistan, which is handled in working groups on a sector-by-sector basis. Analysts said the visit of the Pakistani president, who was honoured as a chief guest at the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Guangzhou, was not previously scheduled, and was meant as a diplomatic riposte to the visit last week of Barack Obama, the US president, to India.

Mr Zardari’s visit to Guangzhou was his sixth to China since assuming office in August 2008.

“There is a consistent pattern. Every time the US asserts its diplomatic presence in South Asia, whether in talks with Pakistan or India, Mr Zardari goes to China,” said Aamir Ghauri, editor of The Asian Journal, a London-based electronic newspaper. The analysts said Pakistan considered China a more reliable superpower to ally itself with than the US, which is expected to play a lesser role in South Asia after it withdraws from Afghanistan.

Pakistan is already largely dependent on transfers of technology and money from China for military equipment and nuclear power generation. China has recently expanded its cooperation with Pakistan in nuclear power generation, announcing plans over the last 12 months to build three plants in Pakistan. Pakistan has pressed for a similar arrangement with the US which, in 2008, agreed to supply India with nuclear power technology. A security official, speaking privately, said Pakistan would continue to expand its defense cooperation with China.

However, analysts and security officials said the relationship should be construed as part of an emerging “cold war” in Asia. “China and Pakistan have a relationship that isn’t based on any tactical consideration, or targeted against anybody,” said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US. Officials in India and the US have frequently spoken of the need to strengthen their strategic co-operation as a counter to growing Chinese influence.



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President Obama has spent three days in India and has, along with the first lady, been dancing to the tune of Bollywood songs. He must have learnt so many things about Indian customs, traditions and superstitions.  One of this is about the shuguns or omens. The rule of these shuguns dictate that he should immediately call of his visit to south Korea because the Indonesian volcano is a bad shugun. It has already made him think about shortening his visit durations.

Los Angeles Times has reported that President Obama will probably cut short his one-day Indonesia visit because volcanic ash is complicating air travel in the region, aides said as Air Force One arrived here Tuesday. The change would be just the latest of several disruptions in the president’s trip to the country where he lived for a while as a child.

The Tuesday arrival comes after two cancellations earlier in the year, first because of a congressional vote on the president’s healthcare plan and then because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Originally, Obama had hoped to bring his daughters and stay for a few days. When the Indonesia visit became part of an economics-focused tour of Asia this month, the stop here was shortened to just a day. First Lady Michelle Obama is the only member of the family accompanying him.

The president still plans to deliver an address to university students and visit a mosque, but aides may change other parts of his schedule, press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

President Obama spent a considerable part of his boyhood in Indonesia with his mom and step dad.

Pakistan’s president Zardari has always remained in the line of fire for expensive US trips but now the cost of President Obama’s trip to India @ $200 million a day makes Zardari a true representative president of poor Pakistan. The figure of $200 million is making the rounds among the Obama’s conservative critics, including potential 2012 Obama challenger Mike Huckabee and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), as the president takes off Friday for a 10-day trip to Asia.

If that is indeed true then we must solute President Zardari for exercising economy and austerity in his trips. But look at the possible outcome of the visit-more business for USA. According to Yahoo News Obama is set to speak to American and Indian business leaders and is expected to announce trade and export deals worth billions to the U.S. In the wake of the Democrats’ devastating midterm losses, attributed in part to the poor state of the U.S. economy, the White House is intent on highlighting concrete benefits to U.S. consumers from Obama’s foray overseas. The president left Washington shortly after the government reported that the economy added 151,000 jobs in October. It wasn’t enough to lower a stubborn 9.6 percent jobless rate and the president said it wasn’t good enough.

“It is hard to overstate the importance of Asia to our economic future,” the president wrote Saturday in an op-ed in The New York Times.

Huckabee made the claim of $200 million a day to Fox News on Tuesday night (citing “reports”) and in the social media sphere. “Reports say that Obama’s trip to Mumbai, India tomorrow will cost taxpayers $200 million dollars a day – come to think of it, that’s much less than Obama’s been spending here,” Huckabee wrote in a Facebook message Tuesday night (misstating the day of Obama’s departure). “So maybe it’s not a bad thing he’s leaving.”

On Wednesday, Bachmann repeated the claim on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” “Within a day or so the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day,” Bachmann told Cooper. “He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He’ll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending. It’s a very small example, Anderson.”

The numbers evidently originate with the Press Trust of India, whose report was linked on the Drudge Report and picked up by Fox News host Glenn Beck. The news agency also wrongly said that the White House had blocked off the entire Taj Mahal Palace hotel for Obama’s visit and that the U.S. was stationing 34 warships—roughly 10 percent of the naval fleet–off the coast of Mumbai for security reasons.

The agency attributed the $200 million figure to an anonymous Indian government official. It didn’t attribute the warships claim to any source. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell called the warship claim “absolutely absurd.” “That’s just comical,” he said at Thursday’s Pentagon news briefing.  “Nothing close to that is being done.”

The White House, meanwhile, issued a blanket statement that the $200 million figure “had no basis in reality” and was “wildly inflated.” The press office declined to disclose the trip’s actual cost, citing “security concerns.” In a news briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also refused to release numbers, but he told reporters point-blank, “We are not spending $200 million a day.”

The nonpartisan FactCheck.org took up the issue, too, saying that even though the administration won’t release a price tag, there is “simply no evidence to support” a claim of $200 million a day. One reason to doubt the report, according to the group:  The entire war in Afghanistan costs $190 million a day.

That is not to say that some of the precautions for Obama’s first presidential visit to India aren’t possibly a tad over the top. As the BBC reports, Indian officials have been removing coconuts from any trees that Obama might walk under, to prevent anything from falling on the presidential head. And as London’s Daily Telegraph notes, the country has deployed trained monkey catchers to prevent any “simian invasion” (a measure that Indian officials also took when President Bush visited in 2006).

 

The Yankees are coming…..

The US seems to be working overtime to seek closer ties with Pakistan. In order to prove that it has a love affair with Pakistan which goes far beyond US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, it has offered $2 billion military aid to Pakistan staggered over a period of five years from 2012 which shows its commitment for a long-haul relationship as against its previous conduct of using and abandoning Pakistan as and when needed. The military aid will flow after Congressional assent but USA is now demanding to further strengthen the presence of its CIA in Pakistan. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the U.S. is pushing to expand a secret CIA effort to help Pakistan target militants in their havens near the Afghan border, according to senior officials, as the White House seeks new ways to prod Islamabad into more aggressive action against groups allied with al Qaeda.

The push comes as relations between Washington and Islamabad have soured over U.S. impatience with the slow pace of Pakistani strikes against militants who routinely attack U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama has said he will begin to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in July, increasing the urgency to show progress in the nine-year war against the Taliban. The U.S. asked Pakistan in recent weeks to allow additional Central Intelligence Agency officers and special operations military trainers to enter the country as part of Washington’s efforts to intensify pressure on militants.

The requests have so far been rebuffed by Islamabad, which remains extremely wary of allowing a larger U.S. ground presence in Pakistan, illustrating the precarious nature of relations between Washington and its wartime ally. The number of CIA personnel in Pakistan has grown substantially in recent years. The exact number is highly classified. The push for more forces reflects, in part, the increased need for intelligence to support the CIA drone program that has killed hundreds of militants with missile strikes. The additional officers could help Pakistani forces reach targets drones can’t.

Simultaneously, Pakistani PM made a startling revelation on Friday saying that drone attacks were never approved by Pakistan as President Musharraf only approved drone surveillance. He implied or stopped short of saying that these attacks had the tacit approval of his own government.

According to The Wall Street Journal, there are currently about 900 U.S. military personnel in Pakistan, 600 of which are providing flood relief and 150 of which are assigned to the training mission. The Obama administration has been ramping up pressure on Islamabad in recent weeks to attack militants after months of publicly praising Pakistani efforts. The CIA has intensified drone strikes in Pakistan, and the military in Afghanistan has carried out cross-border helicopter raids, underlining U.S. doubts Islamabad can be relied upon to be more aggressive. Officials have even said they were going to stop asking for Pakistani help with the U.S.’s most difficult adversary in the region, the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network, because it was unproductive.

When senior Pakistani officials visited Washington this week, Obama administration officials signaled they are willing to push for a long-term military aid package. But they also have made clear to Pakistani officials they expect tangible results, and they threatened that current cash payments to Pakistan could be reduced if things don’t improve in tribal areas such as North Waziristan.

The current efforts to expand CIA presence are meant to expand intelligence collection and facilitate more aggressive Pakistani-led actions on the ground. Some U.S. officials, however, remain hopeful that Islamabad will allow a greater covert presence that could include CIA paramilitary forces.

U.S. military forces on the ground remain a red line for Islamabad because if the Pakistan public became aware of U.S. military forces conducting combat operations on Pakistani territory, it would wipe out popular support for fighting the militants in the tribal areas. Whether covert CIA forces would cross that line however, remains an open question.