This is perhaps the first time ever that the entire world is so impatiently awaiting the new American leader to assume the reins of power and see how serious he is about putting his ideas into effect. That is because the US moves on certain crucial issues at stake, which equally concern the rest of the world, could give a decisive turn to their outcome. The solutions that Candidate Barack Obama had been forcefully advocating during the election campaign endeared him to not only US citizens but also nationals of countries located far and wide. With globalisation fast picking up pace and imperceptibly covering areas of human activity that one could not imagine would be of much interest to an outsider, an out-of-the-ordinary event or a crisis situation in any field of life in one part of the world could have implications elsewhere. And since the superpower has a finger in every pie, the words and deeds of its leader would easily rouse interest all around. Whether the question is about restoring the chaotic economy, fighting an evasive enemy in the shape of 'terrorists', persuading states suspected of crossing the nuclear divide, rebuilding bridges across the Atlantic that broke down in the face of American unilateralism and arrogance, reining in Russia's legitimate ambitions to checkmate the western effort to encircle it with NATO's enlargement and Pentagon's installation of anti-missile missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic or restoring the health of the dying planet where till today the US stands out as the main culprit - i.e. virtually any issue of substance - Washington's role would be keenly watched in other capitals. Besides an equally relevant aspect of the scenario is the strikingly damaging fallout of the Bush administration's policies on the country's image and influence abroad. Without doubt, there has been a precipitous decline in the US standing, and much to the chagrin of American strategists, it has helped other emerging powers edge closer to the dream of having their say on issues of global importance and to the humiliation of those hawks who were till recently preening on having achieved world dominance "in perpetuity". Within the country, the unexpectedly large casualties of American servicemen, especially in Iraq that, on top of it, was invaded on false pretexts and the mismanagement of the economy that was already bearing the brunt of the two wars had created an acute sense of lack of confidence in the current administration and disillusionment. Mr Obama advocated disengagement from the Iraqi theatre of war and talked sense about the causes and remedies of the economic malaise - the two principal issues confronting the nation - and, thus, brought droves of voters to the polling booth. The racial preference, if it came into play, failed to have any perceptible effect and the myth that white voters are prone to changing their minds when before the ballot box even if they had previously decided to vote for a black candidate stood badly exploded. That was because Mr Obama was able to convince his audiences that he had a clear vision of the task that lay ahead for him at the Oval Office. And this impression stood reinforced by the story of his life and thoughts as gleaned through his writings and utterances, depicting a personality imbued with a marked streak of genuineness and a sense of mission. For Pakistan, President-elect Obama's intention to strive for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute to free it from any concern over the attitude of its eastern neighbour and enable it to devote full energies to anti-terrorist efforts in tribal areas abutting Afghanistan sounded, in the first flush, quite reassuring. Later on, his appointment to his transition team of Sonal Shah, an activist of Vishwa Hari Prashad, a bigoted communal organisation thirsty of Muslim blood in particular and markedly anti-Christian came as an anticlimax, though. Ms Shah "has been part of (the) group believed to have been involved in (the) massacre of Muslims in Gujarat and carrying out sustained campaign against Indian Christians in Orissa". Earlier, the induction of Rahm Israel Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff had shocked many across the US political and media spectrum and abroad. Mr Emanuel is rabidly pro-Israel, having served in the Israeli Defence Forces at one time, and "his father was a member of the Zionist terrorist group Irgun, which killed may Palestinians and blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem before the creation of the Jewish state". He is foul-mouthed and ill tempered and his addresses have been replete with expletives. These appointments have, therefore, come as a disappointment to liberal political and religious forces, whether among Muslims, Christians or any other faith and whether Pakistanis, Kashmiris or Palestinians. They are in striking contrast with the feeling one gets from Mr Obama's writings and speeches. But in the immediate timeframe, Islamabad is anxious to see his strategy on Afghanistan unfurled. There is little doubt that he would be shifting his focus on the insurgency there, but his stress on surge in the armed forces has been tempered with frequent references to the need for socio-economic progress that has been poorly handled till now. In the context of Afghanistan comes his repeated avowals of hitting at suspected sanctuaries of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan's tribal areas in case Islamabad is "unwilling or unable" to do so. These strikes (by UN Predators) have been going on for some time and have become quite a sore point with Pakistanis, who strongly resent violation of their sovereignty. The coming weeks are crucially important for the two leaderships to sit down and work a rational way out. American raids on Pakistan's territory cause widespread anger in the country, the more so because they invariably cause heavy civilian casualties. Washington has to realise that they do not advance the cause of its anti-terrorist policy. The issue should be left to Pakistan to handle, and the US should concentrate on heavy investment in the development of the backward region as well as the rest of Pakistan, if it wants to extricate itself from the bog. Thus, it might have its image somewhat restored E-mail: