Washington: Even as rumours began to circulate yesterday that US president Barack Obama would make a 'fly-by' visit to Pakistan in the course of three-day India visit, the reaction here in India was of bemusement seeing Washington back to playing its time-tested 'hyphenation' game. However, with the Obama visit poised to become a major 'non-event' here in India, the state department may have thought it prudent to side-step 'hyphenation' and announce that a presidential visit to Pakistan will take place only next year.
The suspicion that the Obama administration was once again back to hyphenating its India relationship with Pakistan will take some time to dissipate, however.
In what is being perceived as a big endorsement of the beleaguered Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, Obama also invited him to pay a visit to Washington in the same year.
The president met a Pakistani delegation for 45 minutes at the White House on the sidelines of the US-Pak "strategic dialogue" that began on Wednesday. The delegation includes Pakistan's army chief Pervez Ashfaq Kayani.
"The President explained that he would not be stopping in Pakistan during his trip to Asia next month, and committed to visiting Pakistan in 2011," the White House said in a read-out of the meeting.
With the good news the White House also turned the heat on its ally asking it once again to cease support to extremist elements in Afghanistan, to give up using terrorism to further its interests in the region, and to live in peace with its neighbours.