President Obama likely to have refueling halt in Pakistan enroute to Mumbai?
Highly placed sources in Washington have revealed that United States President Barack Obama is likely to stop over for a few hours in Pakistan on his way to India.
While Obama had announced that he would be visiting Pakistan in 2011, sources said that the pressure on the President by Pakistan for a brief stop-over was very intense and possibilities of his stopping to have a meeting solely on anti-terrorism operations could not be ruled out.
This brief stop over termed as a “refueling halt” would follow a quick hop in Kabul enroute to Mumbai on November 5.
Sources however clarified that this plan would be subject to the security environment in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
If American security agencies in Pakistan give a go ahead then the stop over which could even be a refueling halt, could be considered where President Obama would meet with President Zardari aboard Air Force One, the US Presidential Aircraft? It is unlikely that he will proceed to Islamabad which is just a 20 minute drive.
The Chaklala Airforce base where Air Force One might land is near the garrison town of Rawalpindi and is often dubbed the Andrews Air Force Base of Pakistan.
Various scenarios are being worked out and the possible stop over is being kept highly hush hush.
Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kiyani and intelligence chief General Shuja Pasha have been taken into confidence and President Zardari is on standby for a dash to the airport in the scenario that POTUS (president of the United States) might call on the front line ally.
Bagram Air force base, a militarized airport in Afghanistan in American control is being kept ready for a brief stop over too. If Air Force One lands here on November 5th President Karzai will meet President Obama at the airstrip which is just 27 miles from the capital, Kabul.
There were differing views in the White House ever since the India visit was planned. While one section believed that the India Pakistan hyphenation should continue as it gave Pakistan, a major US ally in the War on Terror, a fig leaf cover, the majority prevailing view was that it was time to delink US India relations from Pakistan.
The strategic community in the US is also largely of the opinion that India has moved beyond the restricting parameters of its South Asian neighbourhood, more comparable to its East Asian neighbours. Equating it with failed and failing nations like Pakistan and Afghanistan constricts the scope of American interaction with India.
It might be recalled that in 2000 President Bill Clinton had stopped for five hours in Pakistan on his way out from India using decoy aircraft to land there.
He addressed the people in Pakistan via PTV and had a very terse exchange with then President Pervez Musharraf. Then too, the brief Pakistan stopover had been kept under wraps till POTUS landed for security reasons much to the embarrassment of Pakistanis who had observed the American President’s highly successful India leg of the tour.
Clearly such a stop over will not received very well in India. The optics cannot be missed that within a few hours of visiting Pakistan, the American president will check in into the same hotel in Mumbai where Pakistani trained terrorists killed 163 innocent persons including four Americans. By Smita Prakash (ANI)