Boca Raton(PTI): America’s trust deficit with Pakistan was evident today as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney clashed on key foreign policy issues in the final presidential debate here during which the President savaged his Republican rival for his “wrong and reckless leadership”.
In the last of the three high-stake 90-minute debates ahead of November 6 elections, President Obama was the aggressor from the start of the encounter which provided both the candidates a last chance to appeal to millions of voters in what appears to be a neck-and-neck race to the White House.
According to a CNN snap poll, Obama won the final presidential debate; and same was the case for other opinion polls including that of CBS news. While 48 per cent voted for Obama and 40 per cent supported Romney in the CNN poll.
On the broader concept of the US foreign policy during the debate, both Obama and Romney agreed that the US should not allow Iran to go nuclear, would support Israel in case of attack, the 2014 withdrawal time line from Afghanistan, and the need to take stronger action against China. However, they exchanged jabs on the size of the US military, and the current situation in the Middle East – Libya and Syria in particular.
To the surprise of many Benghazi where a terrorist attack on the US Consulate was not mentioned even a once during the debate; which appeared prominently in the previous debate.
India, the relationship with which there is a bipartisan support in the US, did not figure even once during the prime-time foreign policy debate which was moderated by the Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation” on CBS.
For the first time probably the US President went public to explain why he did not seek Pakistan’s permission to send his commando to Abbottabad to kill Osama bin Laden.
Had he taken such a call, bin laden would have never been killed, 51-year-old Obama said.
On his part, 65-year-old Romney argued for conditional aid to Pakistan, but was against any move to cut off its relationship with an unstable country that has more than a 100 nuclear weapons which is home to terrorists as well
Responding to a question, Romney argued despite a strained relationship with Islamabad, the United States can’t afford to “divorce” itself with Pakistan, which is a nation of more than a 100 nuclear weapons.
“Pakistan is important to the region, to the world and to us, because Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads, and they’re rushing to build a lot more. They’ll have more than Great Britain sometime in the relatively near future,” he said.
During the debate, Romney looked defensive and endorsed Obama’s decision to use drones to kill terrorists in countries like Pakistan and Yemen, and to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014 in clear bid to moderate his image.
Obama also warned Iran, “we are going to make sure that if they do not meet the demands of the international community, then we are going to take all options necessary to make sure they don’t have a nuclear weapon.”
Taking a harder line, Romney said a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable to America, declaring the Islamic republic as “the greatest threat the world faces”.
The two candidates agreed that the United States should defend its key ally Israel if Iran attacked Tel Aviv.
Romney vowed to press China harder on trade and currency issues but toned down earlier rhetoric, following warnings his approach could spark a trade war.
At the end of the third debate, both the candidates strongly argued that they are the best to be elected.
President Obama told his foe Romney, “I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong.”
“Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s,” Obama said, mocking at former Massachusetts governor and wealthy businessman Romney.
According to CBS news poll, 53 per cent of the uncommitted voters said Obama has won with only 23 per cent believing that Romney has won.