Two teenagers were heard asking each other to pinch themselves to make sure they were not dreaming. The Obamas danced their way into the hearts of the youngsters who shared the dance floor with them and thousands of others who watched them on television.
Many wondered when India [ Images ] will have a President or prime minister who will dance with American youngsters in New York's Madison Square Garden.
When it came to question time, however, it was Barack Obama's [ Images ] turn to dance on thin ice. The question he had expected, but dreaded, came from a young lady.
Why is Pakistan so important for the United States that the latter has not yet called it a terrorist State, she asked. The exuberant president suddenly became thoughtful, measured and somewhat timid. He had obviously rehearsed the answer with his advisers.
First, he made three highly exaggerated statements. He said Pakistan is "enormous", it is strategically important not only for the US, but also for the world and that the people of Pakistan has tremendous potential.
How many countries in the world will endorse those statements? How enormous is Pakistan as a country?
Then he went on to say that Pakistan has extremist elements within the country, which is not unique to Pakistan and that the US was assisting Pakistan to fight extremism in a difficult terrain. In this context, he did not even use the word, "terrorism".
This was certainly an inadequate answer to the question as to why the US had not called Pakistan a terrorist State.
Then he went on to say things, which were not relevant to the question at all. He said that the country which had the highest stake in a stable and prosperous Pakistan was India.
Instability in the region should not be a distraction to India which is on the move. He proceeded to advise India to have a dialogue with Pakistan first on less controversial issues and then on more controversial ones so that both countries could prosper.
In other words, he virtually said that India could not prosper unless we resolved the Kashmir [ Images ] issue! Then as an afterthought, he added that the US would only be a friend and a partner and that India and Pakistan should sort out their differences themselves.
The questioner told the press later that she had expected a wishy-washy answer from the president. She got what she expected. She appeared capable of asking the tough question to the president whether he would like to start a dialogue with Osama bin Laden [ Images ], but she was courteous enough not to ask that. Would he have liked it if Osama was treated simply as an extremist? Athiti devo bhava (A guest is like God) and should not be embarrassed on our soil, she must have thought.
The exchange with the student should have come as no surprise to the Indian leaders, but to hear it from him on this visit should have put to rest any expectation that the US would abandon its alliance with Pakistan or pressure Pakistan to give up terrorism as a State policy.
Whether India would bargain with the president and extract concessions on other issues such as defence deals, cyber security, Proliferation Security Initiative etc will be known on day three when President Obama addresses Parliament.
It was no surprise that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [ Images ] and his wife received the Obamas at Delhi [ Images ] airport. He had done the same for President Bush. President Obama had suggested a private dinner with the prime minister on day two, but the Indian style lobbying for invitations resulted in a 'small dinner' for 70 bigwigs at 7, Race Course road, the prime minister's home.
The saving grace was that all the guests were not politicians and people like Viswanathan Anand [ Images ] and Shabana Azmi [ Images ] were also invited. President Obama was criticised for not bringing the soft power of the US to India, but we decided to make up for it by bringing the beautiful people to grace the event.
As President Clinton said about the Vajpayee banquet in Washington in 2000, there were more people wanting to get in than those who managed to get invited.
Realising that the dinner would degenerate into a photo opportunity, the president and prime minister had a meeting before the dinner to have a heart to heart conversation before the two meet formally on day three.
The visit to Humayun's Tomb and a video conference with Ajmer farmers were easy events for the Obamas. They did not have to be on guard and they appeared to enjoy the interaction with the children of the workers renovating the monument and the Rajasthan [ Images ] farmers. President Clinton had similarly enjoyed interacting with Rajasthan farmers in his time.
Having already conceded whatever he wanted to give India in the context of technology denial and export controls, President Obama will be under pressure to do more on the remaining items, notably the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council, which he characterised as a complex issue.
Day three will turn out to be the most decisive day of this significant visit.
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