Janisar Ahmed/Agencies

UNITED NATIONS - In his speech to the UNGA, President Obama categorically presented two options before the world: the first one pertains to progress which is to be led forward by the restoration of what he called, ‘international system’ and the second one pertains to the path of instability which inevitably leads to violent extremism in a tone and tenor that might be reminiscent of Bush’s famous rhetoric of, “either you are with us or against us.”

Obama’s first option revolves around reducing poverty, disease, cynicism and conflict in the world. He specially referred to a better future lying ahead for everyone to people living in downtown New York and to the people as far away in Africa. Apparently, this is a utopian world where there will be no conflict, poverty, hunger and war for which the world must join hands.

The second option is menacing, but only if it is prevented from being materialised. This revolves around terrorism, war and unrest, which he said was originating from Middle-East and even westernised countries such as Russia, which he said was intent upon spreading its influence in Europe.  Obama was categorical in warning Russia from staying away from projecting its power, failing which he warned there would be consequences.

“We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth. We call upon others to join us on the right side of history,” he warned. More obvious was the warning to certain Middle-Eastern countries such as Syria and Iraq. The threat from the ISIS figured prominently in his speech.  Obama made it obvious that the choice the US was going to make was that of creating an international system that will lead to a better world brimming with hope.

 “For America, the choice is clear. We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort,” he said. Obama’s style of speeches and his foreign policy has been markedly different from Bush era, even though the threat from the militants has not been contained and while America is still fighting the enemies abroad. However, his speech has led to speculation which views it as an extension of an America that is ready to revert to the Bush’s unilateralism. At the same time with this similarity, what was different was Obama’s statement that the war against violent extremism was not going to be a war against Islam. His words made it pretty clear, “At the same time, we have reaffirmed that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them - there is only us, because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country.”

Although, there was no direct finger pointing towards Pakistan or the terrorists operating on the soil, President’s warning to the countries sponsoring terror makes it clear that Pakistan will have to persist in its fight against terrorists in North Waziristan and in other public statements emanating from the civil-military setup shunning extremism. This is reportedly, also the agenda that will figure during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the UNGA session.

According to reports, Joe Biden is going to talk to Prime Minister regarding the progress made on the terror front and to what extent Pakistan’s military has shattered the militants in North Waziristan. This time, more focus has been placed on ISIS and Middle-East but even then, the perception of Pakistan as the epicenter of terrorism is very there and figures in public debate.  

Moreover, declaring that the United States would never be at war with Islam, President Barack Obama on Wednesday called on world leaders meeting at the UN to “choose hope over fear” by fighting sectarian conflict and extremism, beginning with the Islamic State militant group in Syria and Iraq but branching out beyond the Middle East.

“We have reaffirmed that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam,” Obama said in a major policy address to the UN General Assembly which opened its week-long high-level debate on issues of peace and security around the world.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, who flew into New York Wednesday afternoon, missed Obama’s address, but will join later today more than 140 heads of state/government attending the 193-member Assembly’s 69th session. No talks are scheduled with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who arrives in New York on Saturday.

In his address in the refurbished gold-and-blue Assembly hall, Obama emphasised that large states must not bully small countries.

He urged leaders to support Iraqis and Syrians as they fight to reclaim their communities, as he also argued the merits of the new military campaign he is running against the Islamic State as well as Al Qaeda and its offshoots. “No God condones this terror,” Obama said. “No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning - no negotiation - with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”

He said, “Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them – there is only us, because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country”

“So we reject any suggestion of a clash of civilizations. Belief in permanent religious war is the misguided refuge of extremists who cannot build or create anything, and therefore peddle only fanaticism and hate. And it is no exaggeration to say that humanity’s future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along fault lines of tribe or sect; race or religion,” added Obama, who recently authorized American military strikes against the ISIL and al-Qaeda militants in Iraq and Syria.

Obama particularly referred to world hotspots including what he called Russian aggression in Ukraine, and ISIL terrorist attacks against people in Iraq and Syria.

“Russian actions in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition. The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness.

Obama slammed Russia’s “aggression” in Ukraine but offered to lift sanctions against Moscow if it threw its weight behind an unravelling peace deal with Kiev.

The outstretched hand to Moscow came a day after pro-Russian guerrillas brushed off Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s limited self-rule offer and announced plans to set up their own parliaments in self-organised November 2 polls.

The autonomy offer was at the heart of the pro-Western leader’s attempts to quell a revolt that has devastated the ex-Soviet nation’s economy and revived a Cold War-era mistrust between Moscow and the West.

A tough-talking Obama told a special UN General Assembly session in New York that Russia was on the wrong side of history in Ukraine. But he also stressed that a ceasefire deal agreed earlier this month offered an opening toward diplomacy and peace.

“Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition,” Obama told the General Assembly with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in attendance. “We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression.”

Barack Obama also urged Iran to seize the “historic opportunity” of reaching a deal with world powers on its contested nuclear program in a speech at the United Nations.

“America is pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue, as part of our commitment to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and pursue the peace and security of a world without them,” he told the General Assembly. “This can only happen if Iran takes this historic opportunity,” Obama added.

“My message to Iran’s leaders and people is simple: do not let this opportunity pass. We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful.”

Obama urged other countries to get behind a broader international effort to stop the deadly Ebola epidemic from spreading further, with hundreds of thousands at risk.

In a speech at the UN General Assembly, Obama grouped Ebola with the crisis in Ukraine and the threat posed by Islamic State group jihadists in Iraq and Syria as “new dangers” that imperil global security.

The outbreak in west Africa has killed nearly 3,000 people. The World Health Organization has warned the number of cases could explode in the coming months without an urgent response.

“As we speak, America is deploying our doctors and scientists - supported by our military - to help contain the outbreak of Ebola and pursue new treatments,” Obama told the 193-member Assembly.