President Obama's interview with a Pakistani private TV channel at the White House last Saturday hardly gave any insight into his administration's perception of the various problems the region is beset with, beyond what had already been known to the world. Nevertheless, there is need to examine the issues he touched on (and the phraseology he used to express his views) in order to see whether the concern they evoke in the minds of Pakistanis were adequately addressed. Not long ago, the whole of the US was airing alarmist views about an imminent takeover of Pakistan by militant forces, with obvious implications for its nuclear arsenal, and references to the possibility of physical intervention by the Pentagon to prevent that scenario from developing. The media, politicians of all colours and hues, thinktanks in the US, in fact, anyone there who could open up his mouth, and their ready followers in the rest of the world, had gone to town warning the world that the Taliban were merely 60km away from Islamabad. The public was left with the only conclusion that they were on the march and would soon be in control of the country, and the world should be ready to face a nuclear Armageddon. Were Americans and their friends really too nave to appreciate that the insurgents stood no chance of gaining any ground against the Pakistan armed forces or were they too ignorant of the lie of the land to know that it was almost impossible for ill-equipped militants to scale the mountains that separated them from the capital and fight their way to occupy it? Hardly They were actually orchestrating the rumour deliberately in an attempt to create fear and pressurise the Pakistani authorities into launching an armed action against these elements? There was no doubt that it was an uncalled for and malicious propaganda. In the light of the spreading violence, Pakistan had to undertake a full-scale military campaign sooner or later when it thought appropriate, but the pressure and allusion to the nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands, evoking the need for the US to secure them were downright mischievous. It is noteworthy that as soon as the army action began, these ominous voices from across the Atlantic fell silent. The fighters of the Tehrik-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan are already on the retreat. Now, Mr Obama says: "Nobody can or should push the Pakistani government. The Pakistani government is accountable to the people of Pakistan." His remarks related to a question about his opinion on an offensive in South Waziristan, but it is easy to see that he is subtly prodding Islamabad to go ahead. He observed: "I think the Pakistani government and the people of Pakistan recognise that when you have extremists who are assassinating moderate clerics like Dr Naeemi, when you have explosions that are killing innocent women and children, that that can't be the path for development and prosperity for Pakistan." Besides, the noises calling upon the US to get hold of Pakistan's nuclear assets lest the Taliban should capture them have died down. In the first instance, it was simply ridiculous to make the assumption that militants could snatch the weapons from their guardians. If the US analysts (who go for experts, ready to pronounce on everything on earth) did not know that these weapons were not lying in the open for anyone to pick up, they had better learn of facts before making judgements. The nuclear weapons are under a proper command and control authority, which decides how to keep them and where, and the sites are known to a few concerned with safeguarding them. It is difficult to deny that the Western nations have not been able to stomach the reality of a nuclear Pakistan, a Muslim country. However, under the circumstances Mr Obama had no choice but to tell the Pakistani interviewers that they (atomic weapons) were "safeguarded" and that "it is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal." That seemed to suggest that the Americans had no right to get hold of them. It should be clear that Pakistan would not, under any circumstances, provide access to the secret to anyone, not even the Americans. The US president clearly stated: "I will tell you that we have no intention of sending US troops into Pakistan. Pakistan and its military are dealing with their security issues." Thus while he discounted such a possibility, he sidestepped a question about drone attacks on Pakistan territory with the remark that he did not comment on specific operations. It is obvious that he would not call off attacks by these pilotless planes, which are provoking further anger and hatred of the US. For Pakistan, which has so far failed to bring round India to sit down and discuss the Kashmir dispute in a serious manner, it was heartening to hear Candidate Obama show an understanding of its crucial nature in the removal of tension between Islamabad and New Delhi. It is a different matter that he realised that Indo-Pakistan good neighbourly ties would set Pakistan free from the worry on the eastern border and enable it to concentrate on the western front where Washington's current bte noire was active. He even alluded to Kashmir during his inaugural address, but later succumbed to the Indian pressure and the issue just went into the background. He tried to cover it up when questioned about the shift but it was quite obvious he was beating about the bush: "I don't think that we've been silent on the fact that India is a great friend of the United States and Pakistan is a great friend of the United States, and it always grieves us to see friends fighting. And we can't dictate to Pakistan or India how they should resolve their differences, but we know that both countries would prosper if those differences are resolved." Then he talked of "opportunities, maybe not starting with Kashmir" and a dialogue together to reduce tension. The Americans would be helpful in the process but not "mediators". Unless helpfulness is translated into genuine prodding leading up to a just solution, President Obama's own words uttered in the context of the current Iranian situation would have little meaning. He said in the same interview about the unrest in Iran: "I stand for that universal principle that people should have a voice in their own lives and their own destiny." E-mail: mykay@yahoo.co.uk