Across Asia, Barack Obama’s election as president was welcomed, be it in Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia or Nepal. Top leaders and citizens alike hailed Obama as a ray of hope for the financial crisis and global terrorism.
U.S. residents in Japan and locals celebrate Obama's victory in Obama town in Japan
Jubilant celebrations all over Asia marked the victory of United States President-elect Barack Obama.
For most countries in Asia, Obama’s election could mean a turning point in the global war on terror. This is especially the case in war-weary regions like Afghanistan, where thousands of civilians have died in the US war against Taliban insurgents.
Change needed in War on Terror
Dr. Omar Sharifi from the American Institute of Afghan Studies in Kabul says that most Afghans are frustrated with the silence and marginalisation of the Afghan crisis. ‘’I think the Afghan crisis was the centre of the whole problem in the period of 9/11, but it was overshadowed by the problems of Iraq,’’ he says.
Afghanistan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai, in his statement welcoming Obama, urged the President-elect to bring an end to civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Omar Sharifi stresses on the need for a change in strategy on the war in Afghanistan.
For this the most important first step is to target the command and control centres of the terrorists based beyond Afghanistan borders and to put pressure on those countries, which support the terrorists and provide them with sanctuaries, says Sharifi.
ASEAN expresses hope
New hopes for the war on terror are also being expressed by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Many ASEAN member nations are predominantly Muslim countries, like Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia, whereas others like Thailand and the Philippines face Muslim separatist conflicts from within.
ASEAN general secretary Surin Pitsuwan hailed Obama’s victory. He said he was confident that Obama would favour a multilateral approach to foreign affairs as opposed to the ‘lone cowboy’ policy of George Bush. Surin also hoped for greater US sympathy towards problems of the third world.
In Indonesia, where Obama went to school in the 1960s, the celebrations were more personal. ‘’We played marbles together; we used to roll around in the swamp at Tebet Mas, where we lived. Once we even threw Obama into the swamp. When we saw him on television, we didn’t know who this ‘Barrack’ was. We knew him only as ‘Berry’ and he has changed. Earlier he was a bit plump and had an Afro hairstyle. Today he looks a bit scrawny,’’ recalls Kalamudin, one of Obama’s former classmates.
Residents in the small Japanese fishing town coincidentally named Obama also rejoiced the victory of its namesake. Celebrations in the town went into the wee hours of Wednesday with Hula dancing and rock ‘n’ roll music.
There are also a few dissenting voices. Among those expressing condolences for the Republican John McCain’s loss was his former prison warden Tran Tron Duyet. Duyet served at the Hanoi Hilton prison, where McCain was held during the Vietnam War. Duyet said that he ‘’shared in McCain’s loss’’, and that he hoped he would continue his efforts to boost US-Vietnam relations.