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Imtiaz Ahmed, Hindustan Times
Islamabad, November 07, 2010
There is disappointment in Pakistan over the fact that US President Barack Obama will not be visiting the country during his tour of India. Many Pakistanis see this as  clear indication of America's change in priorities as well as a signal to Pakistan "to understand the on-ground realities." Much of the disappointment stems from the army quarters, say observers, where the view remains of parity between India and Pakistan.

Former ambassador to India, Ashraf Jahangir Qazi said the Americans could help Pakistan overcome its obsession with India. At the same time, he said, this would be almost impossible to do as "India is its (the Pakistan military's) bread and butter and was in its DNA.

In the past, American presidents have made it a point to stop by in Islamabad when visiting India. President Clinton and President Bush both made a stop here.

But President Obama's decision not to do so has upset many in Islamabad. "Hopefully there will be realisation in Pakistan that the US does not equate New Delhi and Islamabad together," said foreign affairs analyst Dr Shamim Akhtar. Akhtar added that in the present US policy, "Kabul and Islamabad are viewed in this context."

Foreign affairs spokesman Abdul Basit Khan clarified that an Obama visit was never on the cards. But media reports, which started to surface early last month, suggested a last-minute change for Obama to visit a country he once lived in. This was confirmed by US envoy Richard Holbrooke who told reporters in Karachi that President Obama did want to visit Pakistan, where both he and his mother had spent time.

Most analysts say that the bigger worry for Pakistanis is not that Obama is not visiting but that he is visiting India. "This is a clear signal for us," said local journalist Zahid Khan, "that India and Pakistan are now seen in different terms by Washington."

Former ambassador Zafar Hilaly said India "with its established democracy, rising economic achievements and a huge market will always play a far greater role in the scheme of things."