Obama and me

“Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black ...

"Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive."  Read the first sentence of The New York Times lead story on 4 November 2008. He pulled down racial barriers! What then?  Will it make a difference to me? I started looking for an answer to this question. I think I might have many unseen friends around the globe; in Palestine, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in WANA who are looking for an answer to this question. 
'Obama has made history.' Yes, he undoubtedly 'made history. It was an improbable dream realized- a dream that had cost Martin Luther King his life.  A black man in White House would have been a dangerous thought not that far away. The African-American son of a first-generation immigrant pushed his way to the White House, making   racists to say let the 'White House be painted now black'. In an electoral battle that kept the world guessing for twenty one months, he emerged triumphant. It was not an ordinary battle that he won as very aptly written by a US commentator, "Showing extraordinary focus and quiet certainty, Mr. Obama swept away one political presumption after another to defeat first Hillary Clinton, who wanted to be president so badly that she lost her bearings, and then John McCain, who forsook his principles for a campaign built on anger and fear."  It was an unprecedented victory 'an achievement for social change.'  In the words of Paul Krugman, an American columnist, "this year's presidential election was a clear referendum on political philosophies — and the progressive philosophy won."
 It was in fact a vote against the follies of George that have pushed into worst ever crisis in its recent history.  He emerged victorious because he saw cost his country was paying for two bloody pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that had affected every individual in his country. It was but for this mad war mongering thinking of the dunce President that has no parallel in the history of the USA that government had failed to protect its citizen. The analysis of his campaign speeches reveal that he believes that he could regulate economy fairly, keep the air clean and food safe, ensure health care to sick, educate children to compete in globalized world by reordering his domestic and international policies. The question arises if I (a South Asian) was going to be beneficiary of his restructured and reordered policy and philosophy. He is committed to withdraw from Iraq – a country that has been bleeding- bleeding profusely for past many years. He is determined to rethink about the no-win war in Afghanistan.
 What has set me- perhaps many others in the sub-continent to think is where we stand in the United States reordered political philosophy. In President-elect Barak Obama's understanding of the South-Asian politics Kashmir problem dovetailed to crisis in Afghanistan. Is more than apparent that he was not going to look at one in  isolation of the other. In this direction Mr. Obama provide a very explicit lead in an interview with Rachel Meadow on MSNBC on October 30, 2008, "We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants."   
On September 25, 2008,   in an interview to 'Journal Arms Control Today' he had said that "I will continue support of ongoing Indian Pakistani efforts to resolve Kashmir problem in order to address the political roots of the arms race between India and Pakistan."  In an interview with CNN he had focused his attention on the South-Asia and seen resolution of Kashmir as an important contributing factor in containing and eliminating roots of terrorism in Afghanistan. There is all indication that the president-elect is appointing former USA President Bill Clinton as his special envoy to 'negotiate     between India and Pakistan a settlement of Kashmir problem. In his tasks Barack Obama has described Kashmir as the 'critical task' before his administration. Kashmir problem is not a new subject for Bill Clinton. He has a clear understanding of the issue.  During his incumbency he had called it "most dangerous place in the world" and a "nuclear tinderbox'.  While in office he always looked for an opportunity to help India and Pakistan to arrive at settlement of the Kashmir problem.
Madeline Albright Secretary of State in Clinton Administration looked at Kashmir as 'most dangerous and tragic place' in the world. Addressing to Asia Society on 14 March 2000   Madeleine K. Albright said, "Some of you know that, when I was a young girl, my father worked as a diplomat at the UN on the problem of Kashmir. He wrote a book whose first chapter contains the simple but eloquent statement, "The history of Kashmir is a sad story." He is now dead, and I am old, and yet still this tragic story goes on." This meeting besides India and Pakistan Ambassadors was attended policy makers and think tanks. On 13 December 2003 She had favored holding of referendum and Plebiscite in Kashmir.  Speaking at a Conference organized by the Hindustan Times she had shown deep concern about the plight of ordinary Kashmir. Who she said was buffered between militants on the one side and forces that sometimes had failed to observe basic human rights. At the leadership conference she had in very categorical terms told then Ministry of State for External Affairs Umar Abdullah in reply to his question that she believed "a referendum or plebiscite was the best way to ascertain wishes of people." The United States has on umpteen occasions declared its Kashmir policy and extended its hand of cooperation to India and Pakistan to settle Kashmir problem. President Bush   said, on February 22, 2008, that the US supports any solution of Kashmir that is acceptable to India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri citizens. In 1996 "a senior official in the US Embassy Islamabad noted in an August press briefing that although the United States does not support the upcoming state assembly elections in Kashmir neither does it reject them. The United States firmly believes that the entire princely state of Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory. It will remain so even after the elections". (CRS 96=730 F dated August 30, 1996 Reports for Congress). Both the Republicans and Democrats have been desirous of mediating between India and Pakistan for finding a solution of Kashmir. But of the Democrats have history of being pro-active on this count. The proposed appointment of Bill Clinton as an envoy on Kashmir by President-elect  is in fact in conformity with traditional Kashmir policy of Democrats. In sixties, John F Kennedy had made a personnel appeal to "to the President of Ireland to the effect that Ireland sponsor a resolution on Kashmir in the Security Council reaffirming the resolutions of the Commission.
The question now arises how India and Pakistan were going to respond to proposed appointment of Clinton as an envoy for India and Pakistan on Kashmir.  Pakistan has not shown so far any enthusiasm about the proposal instead Pakistan intelligentsias are sceptical about it. Though there has not been much of a response from the top in the two countries. The reports from New Delhi suggest that New Delhi is also averse to the proposal as it believes that it would internationalize the Kashmir problem. New Delhi apprehensions are not uncalled for, it is slowly and slipping back to the international forums. Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh mentioned it suo motto  at 63 UN General Assembly on Sept 27, "We are committed to resolving all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, through peaceful dialogue." The United Nation Secretary General offered to mediate on Kashmir during his recent visit to India." Pakistan is shying away from raking up the issue for its backyard being full of problems.
History says that India and Pakistan have always accepted third party mediation after wars but have always been reluctant to accept any mediation for avoiding wars. In 1966 it accepted Kosygin then Prime Minister of Russia. In 1999 after the Kargil War it was the Bill Clinton who mediated a ceasefire between the two countries. Clinton will once again play a role in Kashmir but from American perspective.
(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)

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