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'A strike against training camps is certainly viable'

January 13, 2009
Dr Gary Samore, vice president and director of studies at the New York-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations, believes the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai has brought South Asia front and centre as the most crucial foreign policy challenge for the incoming administration of US President-elect Barack Obama.

Dr Samore feels a certain immediate connection to the attacks: He, along with wife Paula and daughter Kate, were at the Taj Mahal hotel when it was attacked on the night of November 26, and believes he and his family were lucky to escape.

The former senior US National Security Council staffer during the Clinton administration and long time US State Department official told Rediff India Abroad's Aziz Haniffa that it would be a mistake for Obama to appoint a special envoy for South Asia.

Have the Mumbai attacks of November 26 changed the foreign policy template for incoming President Barack Obama, do you think?

Even before the attacks, there was a lot of focus on the Afghanistan-Pakistan issue. The attacks have now expanded that concern, and one of the big issues for the next administration is how to manage South Asia. There is some talk about appointing a special envoy who will be responsible for all of South Asia, including India, and Richard Holbrooke is the person that's usually mentioned.

I think that is a mistake; I think that will lead us back into the old thinking about India and Pakistan. It seems to me there are a lot of difficult issues related to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is all one problem, but trying to roll India up into that is going to make things complicated and will not necessarily help matters, because it immediately raises the issue of Kashmir.

India has reacted strongly to statements by Obama suggesting a special envoy to help resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Exactly. We all want a solution to Kashmir, but we don't want those terrorist attacks to be seen as responsible for pressure on India and Pakistan to resolve Kashmir because that only encourages more attacks. I am not an expert, but it seems to be there are some interesting things happening in Kashmir anyway with the elections, and there seems to be a shift away from violence toward using more democratic means, and obviously that's something that everybody wants to encourage.

Image: The Taj Hotel on fire. Photograph: Uttam Ghosh. Inset, Gary Samore.

Also read: 'The so-called surgical strikes are not easy'

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