Thank you for letting me travel to India!
I am a Pakistani. My best friend is an Indian. We have spent many nights last year during our time at college in New York making reunion plans.
However, every time the conversation would come to an uncomfortable halt when it boiled down to the issue of obtaining visa entry to each other’s homeland.
Each time, the conversation ended the same way. We would conclude with promises of meeting on neutral territory such as Dubai or Sri Lanka. On particularly dark days, when the media stirred up a fresh concoction of past tensions, we would make peace with sustaining the friendship over Skype, as no end appeared in sight to these hostile relations.
Therefore, no one could have been happier than we were at the ease of visa restrictions that were agreed to in a meeting between the foreign secretaries of both countries on Saturday in Islamabad. The maturity shown by both countries to move towards a relationship of understanding, if not trust or love yet, is commendable. In my opinion, a huge part of the credit for this positive development should be attributed to our Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.
Let’s face it; being the foreign minister for a country like Pakistan, a country at the center of global policy, is no easy task. Being the youngest and the first female foreign minister of the country does not make things any easier either. It is no secret that the past year for Pakistan has been particularly rocky in terms of foreign relations. From drone attacks to oil pipeline agreements to the Salala issue, we have seen it all. Our foreign minister has been at the forefront for all of it; defending, explaining, rationalising, criticising and initiating some of the toughest decisions in the world, often involving some of the most powerful and most volatile global players.
Al Jazeera aired an exclusive interview with Khar a few months ago, where she handled some really gruelling questions with admirable maturity and grace.
She strongly emphasised upon Pakistan’s need to improve relationships with all its neighbours, from China to Afghanistan to India. Her mantra of regional stability as the basis for peace, trade and development was a refreshing change in a discourse that is primarily dominated by Islamabad’s relationship with Washington. I still remember the interview, not only because of Ms Khar’s diplomatic efficacy, but also because of the soundness of her political statements.
Predictably, the interviewer asked her about the doubts many had when such an important office was handed to someone of her age and limited experience. Ms Khar confidently replied;
Too much emphasis is laid sometimes on one’s age to determine their experience and too less on their experience to determine their ability. I will let history be the judge of what I have achieved in my term.
I may not have been completely convinced then. I am still far from convinced that every decision coming out of Pakistan’s foreign office is the right one. However, I do realise the immense challenges of the office Ms Khar holds and admire the direction in which she is trying to steer things.
So today, as I share the news with my Indian best friend, we will not only be celebrating my planned visit to Mumbai later in the year, but we will also be celebrating the triumph of a generation.
This generation includes people like Ms Khar and myself ─ a generation that believes in the power of moving forward rather than being held hostage by history.
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