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Two chats and a snub for Zardari

US President Barack Obama speaks to Pak counterpart only briefly on the sidelines.

world Updated: May 23, 2012 00:57 IST
Yashwant Raj

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari got to speak to President Barack Obama not once but twice on Monday. But neither conversation qualified to be a called a meeting.

In a more obvious snub, Obama had earlier left Pakistan off a list of nations he thanked for help getting war supplies into Afghanistan. Zardari had to sit by as Obama opened Monday's session with public thanks only to the nations north of Afghanistan which allowed expanded supply shipments to transit their territory to compensate for the closed Pakistani border gates.

After that, Obama had his meetings with Zardari. They barely qualified to be called that. Both were on the sidelines of the two-day Nato summit.

The first was a three-way conversation with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. The second was about "underscoring their shared commitment to an Afghan-led reconciliation process to bring the war to a responsible end".

"The President spoke briefly with President Zardari twice today," said the White House. Once on the way to a meeting, and the second just before the family photo.

A bilateral with Zardari was never on Obama's schedule, not when his aides first briefed press about the summit days ago, and not on Sunday when questioned. Zardari was a last-minute invitee. His decision to attend gave the impression Pakistan was close to reopening supply routes it shut down last November.

"We didn't anticipate that the supply line issue was going to be resolved by this summit," Obama said, adding, "We knew that before we arrived in Chicago."

West outlines pullout plan
Nato leaders and allies on Monday agreed to hand over the lead in combat operations in Afghanistan to its armed forces starting mid-2013. They also committed to a 10-year assistance plan likely to cost $4.1 billion a year. India would continue to view the pullout with concern. "From the start this has been a 'cut and run plan' dressed up as an honourable withdrawal," said Bharat Karnad of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. "I am not sure how the nascent Afghan Army and police are expected to cope with the Taliban post-2014." (HTC)