The result of the 2009 Parliamentary Elections in India has served to reinforce the confidence of that ambitious power to play an assertive role not only in its region but also at the global level. The Congress Party's emergence as the largest party has been made possible by the burgeoning economy and rise of an educated middle class creating a consumer's market of 300 million. Even though the electoral process gets messy in a county with the greatest multiplicity of ethnic groups and religious minorities, and its conduct is not totally transparent, the result has a certain credibility justifying for the country the title of the world's largest democracy. Mr Manmohan Singh, the Sikh technocrat who helped launch India on its economic resurgence in 1990, will continue as prime minister. Interestingly, the dynastic legacy since Nehru's uninterrupted premiership from 1947 to 1964 continues. Daughter Indira Gandhi succeeded him, and her son Rajiv Gandhi inherited the leadership. Both were assassinated, one by a Sikh bodyguard and the other by a Tamil woman suicide bomber. Rajiv's widow Sonia Gandhi being Italian born chose to play a kingmaker's role, recognising the constraints on ambition arising from such ancestry. Her son Rahul, now 36 years old, is preparing himself for leadership by strengthening the party and has played a prominent role in the election campaign. The image he has acquired is that of a gifted and dedicated nationalist who will continue to pursue his great grandfather's vision of India as a world power. The Hindu content of India's national ethos, that was exemplified by Mahatama Gandhi, even though he was assassinated by a Hindu extremist in 1948, still bedevils the region's politics. The Kashmir dispute continues to poison relations with Pakistan and constitutes one facet of a post World War II global order in which Muslim rights and aspirations have been suppressed. The 9/11 events were used to brand Islamic resurgence as 'terrorist' in character. Palestinians faced stronger repression in Israeli occupied regions, while India followed suit by equating the Kashmiri liberation struggle to terrorism. The eight years of President George W Bush were coloured by his anti-Muslim obsession, from which India benefited by being groomed as a strategic ally, and though the signing of a nuclear accord. Despite President Musharraf's subservience to the Bush policies, that led him to station 100,000 Pakistan troops on the Pak-Afghan border, the US relationship with New Delhi reflected its two basic concerns, reinforcing Israel's security and containing China. Pakistan obviously could not normalise relations with Israel, though some preliminary moves were made when Foreign Minister Kasuri met his Israeli counterpart in Turkey in 2005. On China, Pakistan's longstanding alliance was codified through a Pakistan-China Treaty on Peace and Friendship, concluded in April 2005. The Peace Process with India, initiated in January 2004 during Prime Minister A B Vajpayee's visit to Islamabad for the SAARC Summit was maintained when Vajpayee was defeated by the Congress and Manmohan Singh succeeded him as prime minister. The dialogue was maintained over the next four years, though the emphasis was more on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) than on dispute resolution. The earthquake of 2005 led to some humanitarian cooperation in Kashmir where its fury was concentrated but bilateral relations virtually stagnated, as even issues such as Siachin Glacier and Sir Creek could not be finalised with last minute hitches coming from India. The democratic process in Pakistan that culminated in the elections of February 18, 2008 did produce some useful manifestations of goodwill, though India's attitude was transformed by the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 26 attributed to "non-state actors." Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi happened to be in New Delhi when the incident happened, and stayed on for a while as a reassuring gesture. India's inclination to exert military pressure on Pakistan was discouraged by the US and NATO, which are aware of the problems Pakistan has been confronting in its tribal region along the Afghan border. With the coming into power of the Obama regime in Washington, that has shown awareness of discontents in the Islamic world, hopes have been aroused that though terrorism remains a concern, the longstanding sources of tension such as Palestine and Kashmir will be addressed. Obama's election is a landmark, as he is the first Afro-American to enter the White House. His father was a Muslim of Kenyan origin so that he has linkages both to the Third World and the World of Islam. Even during his election campaign he not only proclaimed an agenda for change but also his intention to launch a dialogue with the World of Islam, to replace Bush's confrontationist strategy rooted in Huntington "Clash of Civilisations" theory. India is already behaving with a self-assurance arising from its global diplomatic standing including strategic and economic convergence with the US, Europe, Russia and Japan. On the contrary, despite having elections and adopting a reformist economic agenda, Pakistan's future is not seen as secure with Henry Kissinger forecasting instability in 2015 and the end of independent existence by 2025. Our post election leadership remains preoccupied with personal intrigues and petty rivalries. It is time that our elected leadership rises to the real challenges, including India's enduring animus. It is pertinent to recall that after India's nuclear tests in May 1998, the Indian ruling party leader L K Advani called upon Pakistan to vacate Azad Kashmir while BJP Party President Singhal had declared that the partition of the subcontinent in 1947should end and Akhand Bharat restored. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's historic decision to demonstrate Pakistan's nuclear capability on May 28, 1998 restored nuclear balance, guaranteeing Pakistan's survival. Apart from safeguarding national unity and sovereignty, our greatest challenge will always be to ensure our independent existence and whoever is the head in Pakistan must meet that challenge by mobilising the nation with courage and conviction. The writer is a former ambassador