If U.S. President-elect Barack Obama thought he could concentrate solely on economic woes during his transition period, the terrorist attacks in Mumbai blew up that notion.
"As much as the economy rightfully absorbs the attention of American citizens, this was a message that the American economy and its citizens live in an interconnected and dangerous world," said Akaash Maharaj, a University of Toronto expert on international relations.
The terrorist attacks highlight the urgent need for Obama and his team to develop plans for future dealings with India and Pakistan, say international affairs experts, particularly in light of his promise to focus more on the war in Afghanistan.
"My advice would be: What can he do to avoid the Afghanistan conflict turning into a South Asia conflict?" says Maharaj.
While the attacks bring attention to foreign policy issues, political scientists say the sinking economy and imminent threats of bankruptcy should remain Obama's most important concern during his transition period.
There's a greater chance that Obama and President George W. Bush will have differences of opinion and policy on the economy than there is with the Mumbai attacks, said Renan Levine, assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto.
"India was hit by terrorists – what's not to agree on?" said Levine. "There's not much difference in the short run about what the two would do."
After the attacks, Bush and Obama issued statements of sympathy to the victims and people of India.
"The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks," said Brooke Anderson, Obama's chief national security spokesperson.
Obama, who was briefed on the phone by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, called Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen to express his grief and support of the Bush administration's offer of assistance.
From the day he was elected, Obama has been careful not to steps on Bush's toes, repeatedly saying there can be only one president of the U.S. at a time. Yet the world has quickly adopted Obama, turning to him for leadership.
Media in China, India, Britain, Germany ran stories yesterday on what Obama had to say about the terrorist attacks.
"This is a very unusual transition in terms of the speed of economic and now strategic matters moving along," said James Laxer, professor of political science at York University. "And George Bush has been the lamest of lame ducks."
Obama has said he wants an economic package on his desk Jan. 20 after his inauguration. Laxer, author of The Perils of Empire, suspects he'll also now want a plan for dealing with Afghanistan in the context of relations with India and Pakistan.
Obama must be careful not to get too far out front on this issue, said Laxer. "He can't take leadership on it. He couldn't sustain it over the next eight weeks."
Most observers said the best thing the president-elect can do in public is be a reassuring presence.
"Obama's instincts are the right ones – be cool, calm, yet fully engaged," said David Dyment, research associate at Carleton University's Centre for North American Politics and Society.