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Asia/US presidential election

Getting out of Iraq, working with Pakistan and India ... Obama's Asian options

Article published on the 2008-11-05 Latest update 2008-11-06 10:06 TU

Students in Pakistan celebrate Obama's victory(Credit: Reuters)

Students in Pakistan celebrate Obama's victory
(Credit: Reuters)

US President-elect Barack Obama's promise to pull US troops out of  Iraq won the support of Americans who do not see an end to "Operation Enduring Freedom" under a Republican president. Obama promised withdrawal over a total of 16 months as soon as he takes office in January 2009.

Making a promise and fulfilling it are two separate issues, according to to RFI's Tony Cross, who has covered the Iraqi and Afghan wars for RFI and has reported from Pakistan and India.

Cross maintains that a pullout would only be a relative term, as the US is planning to keep military bases within the country.

"We must remember that there are pressures in the United States on Obama, which is not just the pressure of the elections, but there's a lot of money being made in Iraq by American contractors," said Cross.

"There are oil interests that want to make sure that they have their massive resources of oil open to American exploitation," he added.

Another issue in the region is the many attacks on Pakistan by US drones.

"Pakistanis have commented in the press that they find Obama a more appealing person, but they don't like this open declaration that he will intervene," said Cross. "On the other hand, he gets high marks for honesty. Because of course, the Americans are already doing it, everybody knows it."

Thses attacks are hugely unpopular and contributing to the political pressure on Pakistan's government, he contends.

Q + A: RFI's Tony Cross looks at Obama's foreign policy challenges

05/11/2008 by Angela Diffley

In India, Obama's win is seen as even less rosy, according to Bharat Karnad, professor of national security studies at the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi.

"I think it is a change, and as far as Indian interests are concerned, for the worse," said Karnad. "There are a great many issues in which the Democratic Party thinks in a punitive manner."

Indian leaders are anxious to keep the nuclear weapons they have developed, as has rival and neighbour Pakistan, which also disputes control of the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir with Delhi.

"As far as India is concerned, whether it is Kashmir, whether it is non-proliferation, these are agenda items the Obama administration might just prioritise, in which case, there's going to be friction," he added.

Interview: Bharat Karnad, professor of national security studies at the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi

05/11/2008 by Salil Sarkar