SOUTH ASIA: Media response optimistic, cautious on Obama's election

South Asian media commentaries voice hopeful, measured responses to last week's election of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency

By Jaime Mendoza
AsiaMedia Staff Writer

Monday, November 10, 2008

Last Tuesday, Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States of America. The first time senator from Illinois beat Republican candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona, garnering 365 electoral votes and about 53 percent of the popular vote.

Although the rest of the world didn't get to vote in the U.S. presidential election, most rooted for Obama. The Defense & Strategic Affairs editor, retired Brig. Gen. Shahedul Anam Khan, of Bangladeshi newspaper Daily Star wrote , "There was one thing that the world wanted to see America prove, in the same way perhaps that America wanted to prove to the rest of the world that the choice of the American people for the Oval Office was motivated not by the color of a candidate's skin or the religious conviction he chose to follow or the family background he was brought up with but by the merit of the policies that he enunciated."

One commentator, Mahmud Sipra, in a piece for Pakistan's Daily Times suggests the president-elect will have to address a global constituency also: "In a world that that had turned against America under the painfully long eight years of George W. Bush, world leaders -- indeed the world -- will now be looking to Barack Obama and his seasoned Vice President-elect Joe Biden to put their great country into damage control mode from the minute they assumes office."

Addressing Obama's election, Pakistani newspaper Dawn wrote a guarded editorial on what future U.S.-Pakistan relations will be like. "Here in Pakistan, Mr. Obama's earlier take on the issue of militancy was sometimes seen as somewhat short-sighted and belligerent. The U.S. certainly cannot go it alone without the support of Pakistan (that is a reality that America must acknowledge publicly if it is an honest broker). But Pakistan too has to understand that a different mood now prevails in Washington," Dawn said.

Despite the recent nuclear accord that cemented relations with the United States, India is also a bit wary of Obama's presidency. Nuclear issues, resolving the conflict in Kashmir, and stabilizing Pakistan and Afghanistan are important to India, but one of its biggest concerns is the impact on the Indian economy if the United States started to outsource less jobs. A Times of India editorial,  however, remains hopeful that Obama's economic strategy will not result in such a decline, citing the inseparable link between outsourcing and U.S. commercial interests: "What's needed is a steady hand at America's economic wheel. Obama has already built up an impressive team of economic advisers and provided evidence that he has the smarts to turn the American economy around."