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Pakistan hails John Kerry's nomination, India mum

December 24, 2012 09:27 IST

"I think it's fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers, or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry. And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy," said United States President Barack Obama as he nominated five-term Senator from Massachusetts John Kerry to be the next Secretary of State.

Kerry, winner of three Purple Hearts and several other medals from the Vietnam War, is known to be a friend of Pakistan's.

Not surprisingly, Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's ambassador in the US, was first off the South Asia block to congratulate him. "Senator Kerry is a man of towering stature and accomplishments, having served the US with great vigour and distinction. He has demonstrated through the years an extraordinary understanding of the complexities of South and Central Asia," she said in a statement.

India has not said anything yet.

To say the years ahead are going to be challenging for a US Secretary of State would be an understatement. Western forces begin pulling out of Afghanistan in 2014 amid Pakistani doubts and global anxieties on how ready that country is for democracy.

Kerry was one of the most important influences on Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to be persuaded to accept the 2009 election verdict and go for a run-off against challenger Abdullah Abdullah. It was another matter the Afghanistan Election Commission cancelled the run-off and declared Karzai President for a second term.

Kerry was also the envoy Obama sent to Pakistan after Central Intelligence Agency-contracted Raymond Davis killed two Pakistanis and was put in jail.

In the past, Kerry has withered about India's nuclear disarmament record, especially on the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But with the civil nuclear agreement, that is now water under the bridge. Also, he is unlikely to be as assertive about outsourcing-related issues as before.

A host of other US headaches are also to be handled -- accommodating India's softer view on Iran to counselling Israel, grasping the big picture Egypt's Morsi is looking at, and redefining friends and foes in West Asia in the light of Syria's uprising against Basher al Assad.

For the record, in 2011, when he spoke about India at a reception for Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao, he gushed, "It is a reality India is a powerhouse. It is an extraordinary country, a place of the most vibrant debate, remarkable cultural diversity, political diversity and critical to the conduct of global affairs".

But New Delhi noted (and protested) recently that the US State Department accepted Pakistan's contention that two former directors-general of Inter Services Intelligence involved in plotting of the Mumbai attacks had diplomatic immunity. South Block will expect to hear Kerry say something about this.

Aditi Phadnis
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