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Obama will not visit Pak this time

US President Barack Obama is not going to visit Pakistan on his Asian tour starting with India on November 6, ending a long standing practice of the US administration of treating the South Asian neighbours as hyphenated siblings.

world Updated: Oct 22, 2010 01:27 IST
Yashwant Raj

US President Barack Obama is not going to visit Pakistan on his Asian tour starting with India on November 6, ending a long standing practice of the US administration of treating the South Asian neighbours as hyphenated siblings.

Obama told a visiting delegation from Pakistan — led by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi — that he would not be visiting their nation now, but in 2011. He also said he is inviting Pakistani president Asif Zardari to visit US.

The news was much welcomed by Pakistan, which has been insisting that Obama visit that country since the announcement of his Indian tour. “I am happy to report that our visit to the US has got off to a flying start,” said Qureshi, addressing a talk on US-Pakistan relations later in the day.

In the past, President Bill Clinton and his successor George W. Bush had stopped over in Pakistan on the way back from India. But Obama just changed the rules.

“The President explained that he would not be stopping in Pakistan during his trip to Asia next month,” said a White House statement, adding that he will be “committed to visiting Pakistan in 2011.”

Amritsar tumble

US President may visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a government source said in New Delhi on Thursday, insisting that visits to Amritsar and the Taj Mahal in Agra were still in the realm of possibility.

“The itinerary hasn’t been frozen yet and there is interest within the administration to include a visit to the Golden Temple during Obama’s visit,” a government functionary said.

However, the White House tried to downplay the controversy saying the President will visit or skip a place based on what can be accomplished in terms of the government’s stated goals. “We pick sites on foreign trips based on what the President wants to accomplish,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

However, Gibbs did not confirm the decision. “We’ve not finalised the schedule for Asia, including India, yet,” Gibbs said, adding, “We hope to do that over the course of the next week.”

There have been reports that Obama’s team was facing a ticklish question over what the President should use to cover his head while visiting the Golden Temple that could knock Amritsar out of his itinerary.

(With inputs from New Delhi)