M A Niazi President Barack Obama has visited India, without visiting Pakistan. This in itself has been a statement, for it shows how the US is willing to bend itself to Indian diplomacy in the region, and it shows the extent to which American regional policy may well be dictated by Indian desires. A presidential visit is a great reward, and must have been anxiously sought by Pakistani diplomats. At the same time, it is also both painful and humiliating for the hosts, mostly because the US President brings his own security, and security measures, which first of all mark him off as an American, and set an example for both lesser American citizens, as well as host heads of state, anxious for the photo-op. This apparently was the Presidents main purpose in visiting, for there was little of substance that this administration wanted achieved, particularly after the Strategic Dialogue, and that too a Washington round, had been used to announce military aid for Pakistan, However, the visit would have been valued by Pakistan for three reasons: first, it would have shown the value placed by the US on Pakistans role in its 'war on terror; second, it would have shown American support for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan; and third, it would have shown all that Pakistan was being treated at par with India. This happened to be the loose thread on which all unravelled. The main reason why the US cannot regard Pakistan and India as equivalent is not because India is a bigger country, and is thus a bigger market, but China. India and the US both look on China unfavourably, unlike Pakistan. India has fought a war with China, while Pakistan has engaged China positively. As a result, the US sees China as a future rival, and India as its regional bulwark against China. It is within this context that the Obama visit must be viewed. It was meant to assure a very important ally of the future, which it will use as a regional policeman. It is in this context that the US wants peace in the region, in the context of a power rivalry in the region between India and China, with India a friend, but not China. It is useful to keep in this context - though mainly as background - US interests in the region, which encompass Japan and the Koreas. It must not be forgotten that these interests throw a ring on one side around China, not India. Though Pakistan cannot be abandoned as India would wish, it can be snubbed, as the US managed to do. This is so big a snub that it cannot be put down to typical US ignorance of the foreigner, but had to be deliberate. It was particularly painful for a regime which had done all it could to prove its loyalty to the US, and the kudos it desired for hosting the US President went missing. Apart from the signal that is being sent about the importance of India, there is also the signal that the US does not see its relationship with India as related to that with Pakistan. This delinking has two problems: The first is theoretical, and perhaps the problem with interstate relations in an era of nation-states - the assumption that in a relationship, any state can ignore the others regional context. The second is more specific, and puts the US in the awkward position of winking at Indias illegal occupation of Kashmir. The US should find it even more awkward, because it has declared to back Indias bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, even though that is a body whose resolution for the holding of a plebiscite in Kashmir it is still defying. As Pakistan is not just party to the Kashmir dispute, but has also given the Kashmiri freedom struggle diplomatic and moral support, it is opposed to Indias UNSC permanent membership. Not to mention its objections in principle to any expansion of its permanent membership. However, Americas support counts for more than Pakistani opposition, and it is no coincidence, considering the pusillanimity of Pakistans acceptance of US claims, that despite the blind support offered by successive Pakistani governments to the US, it is India that is being courted, with the civilian nuclear deal, which made nonsense of the USAs non-proliferation rhetoric, merely the first of the favours that Washington seems bent on showering on its future bulwark against China. US courtship of India precedes the dissolution of the USSR - the superpower India had befriended, but the present courtship succeeds it. American fascination with India is not just because it is a big country, but also because it represents the idea of the 'Exotic East, which the US inherited from Europe - an idea inextricably linked with the ideas of the Middle East (and thus of Islam) - and thus of the Crusades, which have wide currency even today. While the anti-Muslim bias that shows is one of the values that the US and India share, the American fascination with India is both deeper and wider. India is not just a potentially capitalist country, but is perhaps the last bastion of idol worship and paganism, something towards which the US has turned after the demise of Christianity that it inherited from Europe, where too it is dead. Christianity only survives in the US in its most basic, evangelistic form, which is also Zionist. As the Zionist entity, Israel, has been befriended by India, this has provided both with an opportunity to further their anti-Muslim bias. This has created a situation where the US not only trusts India, but is also willing for it to play a role in South Asia that it never accorded to Pakistan: its bulwark against China. The next stop on President Obamas itinerary was also significant: Indonesia. Ever since the overthrow of Soekarno and his replacement by Suharto, Indonesia was counted among USAs allies. It has also been the worlds most populous Muslim state ever since the secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971. As a key member of SEATO, and of ASEAN which replaced it, Indonesia has long been a regional power. Also, Obama spent some of his formative years here, where he got his real exposure to Islam, rather than in the Kenya of his forefathers. The visit was, thus, of more personal significance than to India, but it was also of equivalent political significance. Indonesia did not get much of a press, having been a Dutch colony before World War II, but it is probably the real 'Exotic East of western imagination. Certainly, it was colonised by the Dutch for its spices, and was known historically as the Spice Islands. Though Soekarno is still represented by his daughter, Megawati Soekarnoputri, after a number of experiments post-Suharto, including his crony B.J. Habibie and the half-blind 'Gus Dur, democracy has thrown up a former general, someone the US can rely on to look after its interests. Funnily enough, that was originally the view of Suharto in the US until he became ripe for removal after decades in power. The Indonesian leg implies that this visit was about South East Asia, which is why, apart from Pakistan, neither Afghanistan, nor any of the former Soviet Republics, was visited. Pakistan should learn that the US has excluded it from any future in South East Asia, if it remains under its wings. Email:maniazi@nation.com.pk