Dear President, Your presence in the White House is seen as a miracle, which could happen only in your great country. It is a victory for America's people and its democracy. By becoming the first non-white president in more than two hundred years, you have made history. It was a barrier cross. But you made history not because you are black. You made it because you were a better and a smarter candidate, and had no political baggage. There was another reason for this miracle to happen. America was fed up with your "distinguished" predecessor, George W.Bush whom the entire world saw as the problem of our times. The whole world had been holding its breath for your election as president because in his eight years, George W. Bush had played havoc with the world. You gave them hope for change from the "bleak" Bush era. No doubt, you inherited a terrible legacy. Your predecessor had turned the world upside down. It is a different world altogether, woefully chaotic and painfully violent. You have promised a new America for the Americans, and for the world, an America which would be at peace with itself and with the rest of the world. Across the globe, there is a new mood altogether on the prospect of change in America's global policies and behaviour. You inherited ongoing wars, global image erosion, shattered economy, depleted social security, healthcare crisis, and decaying education system. You have pledged to meet these challenges. Indeed, a heavy responsibility lies on your shoulders. You have no magic wand. But you can at least restore America's moral standing so that it quickly recovers from its global alienation and perception as an "arrogant superpower." You must redress the root causes of global anti-Americanism. You will have to remake America. But in doing so, you must not forget what your fellow democrat predecessor, President Woodrow Wilson had envisioned as the "principle of justice" for all peoples, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another. Now Wilson's ghost doesn't have to come to remind you that to make "the world safe for every peace-loving must be assured of justice and fair dealing, and that unless justice is done to others it will not be done to us." No doubt, Mr. President, you have taken some initial steps undoing some of the Bush blunders and bloopers. You have issued orders on closing the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison camp and decreed interrogation methods to comply with the prescribed norms. Your foremost agenda items - stabilizing the economy and ending the Iraq war are complex tasks with results not expected soon. In other cases, you may have to follow a slow and steady approach. On Afghanistan and Pakistan, representing America's "other war", you have appointed Richard Holbrooke as your special representative. There could not be a better choice to address one of the world's most "dangerous" crisis zones. Holbrooke is a seasoned diplomat and a known peace-maker. His selection for this mission not only brings a sharper focus on this region but also signals your new approach in this critically volatile area. Given this high-profile move, you seem to have given a clear message that besides the planned military "surge" you would pursue a broader approach involving "diplomatic and development" efforts to be successful in resolving the conflict in Afghanistan. This is the right approach. You no doubt are aware that Pakistan is now the "single greatest challenge" facing you as the new US President. The US cannot afford to see Pakistan fail, nor can it ignore the extremists operating in Pakistan's tribal areas. By all accounts, the Bush policies in the region have failed. This underscores the need for Washington to "rethink" its entire approach to Pakistan and a realistic policy review which must not ignore the "ground realities as well as the troubled history of this region. We note that you have already ordered an inter-agency review to examine new US policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan before the NATO summit in April. Any new approach must start from the very genesis of this crisis. History is witness to the fact that the tragedy of 9/11 was only a logical epilogue to the unclosed chapter of the long Afghan tragedy. Had the US not walked away from Afghanistan after the Soviet pull out, perhaps the history of our world today would have been different. If the world had remained engaged with the people of Afghanistan, providing them strength and means to rebuild their war-ravaged country, the situation today would have been totally different. And the Afghans are not the only victims of the Afghan tragedy. Pakistan also suffered immeasurably in multiple ways in terms of millions of refugees, socio-economic burden, a culture of drugs and guns, rampant terrorism and protracted conflict in its border areas with Afghanistan. It is time to redress the situation. Violence is already destroying our society. The more you kill, the more you produce. Swat is burning. People are leaving their homes. Violence and chaos in these areas and along the border with Afghanistan is getting out of control. The long Afghan history is full of lessons. Traditionally, hospitable Afghans have never welcomed foreign military occupations. Iraq's "Anbar" experience may not be workable here. Different war theatres warrant different scripts. Involving Afghan tribes in the anti-Taliban war might result in a civil war. It will be a dangerous mistake. The planned military "surge" will not help. It may bring "relief" in some areas but it will not bring a lasting solution to the problem. More troops will only heighten a "sense of occupation" among the resistant population. Your real challenge, Mr. President, is to mix deft diplomacy, security support and economic aid" in pursuit of your vision for durable peace in this volatile region. But this vision would remain incomplete without addressing the India-Pakistan issues, which are not without direct impact on the overall situation in the Afghan theater. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan are historically and physically part of South Asia which also includes India. For any regional approach to succeed in Afghanistan, the India-Pakistan equation will have to be kept straight. You already understand this linkage. In one of your pre-election television interviews, Mr. President, you had said that your administration would encourage India to solve the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan, so that Islamabad can better cooperate with the US on Afghanistan. You are right. To keep Pakistan focused on the larger challenges in our region, the Kashmir issue has to be resolved. Towards the end of his tenure in 1999, President Bill Clinton had also realized the inherent threat posed by India-Pakistan hostility to the region's peace and security, and had planned to take personal interest in facilitating the "process of resolving all issues dividing India and Pakistan, including Kashmir." This is what you should also do. In the context of South Asia, the US must remain sensitive to Pakistan's legitimate concerns and security interests. Any policies that create strategic imbalances in the region and fuel an arms race between the two nuclear-capable neighbours with an escalatory effect on their military budgets and arsenals will be no service to the peoples of the two countries. There can be no two opinions on the need to combat terrorism. But to eliminate this evil, we must address its root causes. To address the root causes is not to justify terrorism, but to understand it and thus to overcome it. No strategy or roadmap for durable peace in Afghanistan would be comprehensive without focusing on the underlying causes of conflict and instability in this whole region. In dealing with our region, you must make a clean break from the failed policies of your predecessor. Drone attacks and military incursions across the Durand Line will further deepen the backlash enraging the people of Pakistan and fueling anti-American sentiment while generating greater sympathy for the Taliban in these areas. The US must show greater sensitivity to Pakistan's concerns on repeated violations of its sovereign independence and territorial integrity. Your Vice-President Joe Biden has summed up your case well. He says no strategy for Afghanistan will succeed without Pakistan's assistance. In his view, "the US must strengthen its cooperation with the people and government of Pakistan, help them stabilize the tribal areas and promote economic development and opportunity throughout the country." According to him, the "new strategy" must also bring together US civilian and military resources to help the Afghans develop the needed capacity to secure their own future." Yours sincerely, Pro Bono The writer is a former foreign secretary