The stark challenges facing Pakistan despite the end of eight nightmarish years of George W Bush are being slowly realised following the assumption of presidency by the first African American in US history. The Muslim - sounding name of Barack Hussein Obama apparently influenced many of our analysts into an orgy of wishful thinking about likely benefits for Pakistan. A contributory factor was his admission that he lived as a boy in Lahore from where his mother used to commute to Gujranwala for a UN-aided project. He had also claimed familiarity with Sindh and Karachi. When he had proclaimed his interest in a Kashmir settlement, and even named former President Bill Clinton as a special envoy for this purpose our media hailed this as a promising sign. Given the frustrations of the Bush presidency during which a strategic US-India partnership was established great expectations were aroused by Obama's campaign speeches. Following his epoch-making emergence as president-elect in November 2008, he displayed boldness and originality in identifying his goal which was reflected in the rapid-fire choice of Cabinet members. Selection for the key post of secretary of state took time but eventually it went to his former rival Hillary Clinton. She had been First Lady over the Clinton presidency and this became a major factor in her orientation which she must have cleared with Obama before accepting. This became obvious when she announced the names of two prominent diplomats of the Clinton era, Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchel as special envoys for Afghanistan-Pakistan, and the Middle East respectively. The fact that Mr Richard Holbrooke's responsibility is confined to Afghanistan-Pakistan is highly significant on two counts: He will concentrate not only on the War On Terror, for which US and Western forces will be augmented substantially, but US diplomacy will concern itself with the internal affairs of Afghanistan and Pakistan to counter extremism. The external focus will be on Iran and Central Asia. The fact that there is no mention of India, Kashmir or South Asia, in his mandate means that US diplomacy virtually backs India's hegemonic ambitions in South Asia. Hillary Clinton obviously supports the concept of Indo-US strategic partnership first visualised by President Clinton during his tour of South Asia in 2000. The vision was reinforced and expanded by President Bush's Republican administration. Though Pakistan's major foreign policy concerns and security threats emanate from India, the new secretary of state has managed to secure President Obama's approval to the traditional Democrat inclination to favour India. As Mr Holbrooke had been expected to have a wider mandate, that would include India which not only has a military presence in Afghanistan but also has army and police officers there to train their Afghan counterparts, the implications were noted in Islamabad. However Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomed the announcement, as was only appropriate, and invited the special envoy to visit Pakistan. New Delhi had taken note of Obama's earlier intentions and used its powerful lobby in Washington to bring about this change. The Indian media and experts could hardly conceal their satisfaction over the implied acceptance of their country's coercive diplomacy towards Pakistan. Pakistan had received a visit from Centcom Chief General David H Petraeus who had underlined the special role of the Pakistan military in the war against terror. However the very first two days of the Obama presidency witnessed the continuation of drone attacks in South Waziristan in which 22 persons were killed, leading to criticism in Islamabad and protests in the tribal belt. The practice of drone attacks would have to be better coordinated. Indeed, Holbrooke's main challenge would be to lay down both the military coordination among the triad of Afghan, Western and Pakistan forces, and the application of substantial economic aid that would constitute an incentive for moderation and dissociation with Al-Qaeda elements and Taliban extremists. The nature of his mandate would demand cooperation with the internal administrations in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, to promote better use of western aid and to discourage terrorism and insurgency. The US, with its large resources, and technological base, would have the tools to enforce its objectives: The emphasis would have to be on economic aid, to promote modern education, better healthcare, and better infrastructure. Any military equipment and training, would be aimed largely at fighting extremism and improving internal security, to facilitate alleviation of poverty. Mr Holbrooke would obviously have to visit India on account of its current and potential role in fighting terror and also to enlist Indian assistance and participation with goals sought in Pakistan and Afghanistan. However India would be under no pressure and behave as an independent and sovereign player. The Obama-Clinton policies in South Asia, as at present conceived cannot but be a cause for concern in Pakistan. The arrogant Indian stance after the Mumbai attack include the interruption of the peace process would be encouraged by Washington's support to Israeli war crimes in Palestine. Better management of our internal political situation is essential if we are to discourage gloomy forecasts about our future. The Lawyers' Movement and its goals of strengthening the role of the judiciary, improving governance and reducing corruption at the highest levels holds the promise of creating conditions under which genuine progress and prosperity would be possible. We could also take initiatives in the field of foreign policy to counter what appears to be continued domination of the Indo-Israel lobby during the Obama presidency. He had promised change, but there are already indications that the lone Afro-American at the top cannot radically change the policies and attitudes of the ruling establishment. Therefore our all weather friendship with China, and closer links with other major players including Iran, the Islamic nations and Russia remain fundamental to our security and survival. The writer is a former ambassador