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Day 1: Obama begins to undo Bush legacy

Soon after taking office on Tuesday, US Prez Barack Obama said no to new nuke weapons, paused prosecutions in the Guantanamo Bay prison, embraced alternative energy and pledged to re-evaluate Bush’s national missile defence programme, reports Amit Baruah.See special | On the agenda

world Updated: Jan 22, 2009 23:51 IST
Amit Baruah

Within 24 hours of taking charge, US President Barack Obama started “remaking America” — by wiping out the divisive legacy of George Bush.

Soon after taking office on Tuesday, Obama said no to new nuclear weapons, paused prosecutions in the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison, embraced alternative energy and pledged to re-evaluate Bush’s national missile defence programme.

In the post-Bush world, the US will now engage in direct diplomacy without preconditions with Iran, withdraw all US troops from Iraq in 16 months and make a “sustained” push to achieve the goal of two states — Israel and Palestine — living in peace with each other.

In another striking departure, Obama promised to restore American leadership on space issues, seeking a global ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites in a detailed agenda posted on an all-new White House website.

Marrying the rejuvenation of the American economy to energy security, the president said he would create five million jobs by investing $150 billion over 10 years to “catalyse private efforts to build a clean energy future”.

Al-Qaeda could be defeated in the war of ideas by “returning to an American foreign policy consistent with America’s traditional values” and by working with moderates within the Islamic world to counter Islamist propaganda.

The Obama-Biden team promised to set up a $2 billion global education fund to eliminate the education deficit and “offer an alternative to extremist schools”.

The defeat of terrorism worldwide would entail responsibly ending the war in Iraq and focus on the “right battlefield” in Afghanistan, the new American chief executive said.

Describing the resurgence of al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the “greatest threat” to America’s security, Obama promised more troops and more development for Afghanistan.

Pakistan, which will be held accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan, will also receive more non-military aid from the Obama administration.

India could be peeved that it is no longer mentioned as a frontline American ally in Asia in the Obama-Biden foreign policy priority list.

Obama and Biden will forge a more effective framework in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits, and ad hoc arrangements.

“They will maintain strong ties with allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia; work to build an infrastructure with countries in East Asia that can promote stability and prosperity; and work to ensure that China plays by international rules,” the agenda said.

The new team’s decision to negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons, or fissile material, will have implications for India. “This will deny terrorists the ability to steal or buy loose nuclear materials,” Obama and Biden felt.

India, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, will have to watch out for their promise to strengthen the NPT, a treaty that New Delhi has repeatedly refused to accede to as a non-nuclear weapons state.

In a decision that will resonate with Indians after 26/11, the president said he would insulate the director of National Intelligence from political pressure by giving the DNI a fixed term, like the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

“Obama and Biden will seek consistency and integrity at the top of our intelligence community -- not just a political ally,” the duo said.