South Asia Leaders Congratulate Obama, Point to Challenges

Barry Newhouse

Leaders from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan praised Barack Obama's presidential election win, calling it an inspiration to people within the United States and around the world.  VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Kabul on the reaction in a region that holds critical challenges for the future U.S. president.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he hoped Barack Obama's election will take the United States and the world into a new era where race and ethnicity will disappear as a factor in politics.

He said he has high hopes for what Mr. Obama's leadership will mean to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

"I hope that this election and President Obama's coming into office will bring peace to Afghanistan, life to Afghanistan and prosperity to the Afghan people and the rest of the world," he said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India and the United States are bound by shared commitments to common ideals. In a statement that was read by spokesman Shahbaz Hasibi, the prime minister said he looked forward to boosting cooperation.

"Our two countries working together to address global issues and challenges will be an important factor for world peace, stability and progress," he said.

Debates over U.S. strategy in the war in Afghanistan and the struggle against terrorist networks in Pakistan dominated the presidential campaign.  Last week, Mr. Obama suggested that helping to resolve the dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir would allow Pakistan to better focus on threats from al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

Pakistan's former foreign minister Humayun Khan said the striking image of Mr. Obama's election could help alleviate some of the anti-American sentiment among Pakistanis who feel the U.S. war against terrorism has been misguided. 

"Obama seems to be the sort of person who will try to examine all aspects of our problem and will understand all the complexities of our problems which will mean he will not approach it with a one track mind.  So the chances of him listening to Pakistan I think are probably going to be better," said Humayun Khan.

Seven years after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, there are growing signs of tension between Washington and the U.S. friendly governments in Kabul and Islamabad.

This week, Pakistani leaders urged visiting U.S. commander General David Petraeus to stop missile strikes against militant targets in Pakistan's tribal regions.

In Kabul, while Mr. Karzai praised Mr. Obama's election in English, he was more critical when he addressed Afghans while speaking in Dari.

He said the first demand from the president-elect, when he gets into office, will be to stop the civilian casualties in Afghanistan and to bring the war to those areas where the terrorists have hideouts, which are not in Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai said mounting civilian casualties are tarnishing the image of the foreign troops in Afghanistan.  

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