THE appointment of Mr Richard Holbrooke and Mr George Mitchell, two outstanding American diplomats specializing in conflict resolution, as special representatives for Pakistan and Afghanistan and the Middle East respectively, is indicative of the concern felt by President Obama about the unending militancy in the two regions. That the appointments were made within three days of the President's inauguration shows that he has a sense of urgency also. Referring to the threat that looms from the Pak-Afghan border, he conceded that there could be no lasting peace unless Washington expanded spheres of opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was unlike the Bush era, when the emphasis was on awe and terror tactics combined with an unending insistence that Pakistan should do more. While referring to the need for stronger partnership with the governments of the region, President Obama called for deeper engagement with the Afghan and Pakistani people, a crucial issue altogether ignored by the Bush Administration, which promoted an unpopular but docile dictator. President Obama is apparently keen to enlist the support of large sections of population to isolate and defeat the terrorists. Unless operations leading to civilian casualties in Afghanistan and drone attacks inside Pakistan's tribal areas are stopped, there in no way the US can gain public sympathy. President Obama has also to show sensitivity while dealing with the people in the region by eschewing the type of vocabulary his predecessor thoughtlessly employed, like comparing the War on Terror to crusades, indicating total unconcern about Muslim sensibilities. What is further required is a holistic rather than a partial or one-sided, approach to the phenomenon of extremism and terrorism. The spectre of terrorism haunts the entire region from Assam in India to the farthest regions of Afghanistan. Besides Al Qaeda, which has global ambitions and a worldwide reach, there are numerous militant groups with local and limited agendas. They claim to fight for causes which enjoy the support of large sections of the population, like the Kashmir issue. These outfits can be persuaded to renounce militancy by working out a just resolution of the Kashmir issue. This would isolate Al-Qaeda, making it easier to deal with it. As long as Pakistan and India are at daggers drawn with each other, Islamabad cannot afford to relocate sufficient troops to tribal areas or fully concentrate on the War on Terror. Any genuine normalization of relations between the two nuclear powers requires the resolution of the core issue of Kashmir in accordance with the desires of the Kashmiri people. While the appointment of Mr Holbrooke is a step forward, there is a need to extend his mandate to mediation between India and Pakistan on this most crucial issue.