Smart power: Mango diplomacy and Khar

Published: July 18, 2011
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I said I wanted to write about our Chaunsa Diplomacy and was reminded that the accepted phrase for the season’s initiative was Mango Diplomacy. I still prefer Chaunsa Diplomacy, Chaunsa being the only variety amongst Pakistani mangoes to have been allowed market access in America. Also, I believe it sounds more native and therefore implies credit and ownership for the policy where it is due.

And why have I not written about the new tint our diplomacy is taking vis a vis India?

I can say that from the foreign minister’s purse to her blue scarf, the subject has been beaten to death by hacks all over the world. What can one add? But the fact remains that our foreign policy has undergone a radical change that calls for interpretation. Also, in a way, it is an extension of the Chaunsa Diplomacy.

If a justification of the reorientation of our foreign policy has eluded analysts, let me invoke Iqbal. The world has seen the might and glory of our people, he says, what it has yet to see is their softer, gentler side. Pakistan too has been showing its might for too long. But what can such demonstrations accomplish if they are not informed by a vision? A consequence of this uninformed show of force was the Dhaka episode.

Dhaka has a unique place in our history. It was here that Muslim elders from all over the subcontinent sat down to evaluate the situation and founded the All India Muslim League. The city was also witness to the disintegration of Pakistan as a result of the arrogance of the country’s politicians and the mindless swagger of its generals. The journey for the rehabilitation of a people and restoration of its honour begun at the turn of the 20th century was rendered meaningless by the Pakistani elite of our times and in the same city too.

But let’s not dwell too much on the past. The reports we are now getting of a change of attitudes should be welcomed as the good news they are. The appointment of the new foreign minister represents a deliberate shift away from the hawkish policies pursued for too long. The state and the establishment have seen their futility and decided that it is time now for soft power. Our message to the world is love and goodwill wherever and however it can be delivered. If it can be delivered through the fragrant Chaunsa, great; if Hina Rabbani Khar can deliver it, so be it.

I am reminded here of what I believe is the most representative photograph of her published during her landmark visit. She has just arrived in Delhi and is seen offering her hand to her Indian counterpart. The Indian minister, however, appears at a loss over whether or not to shake the hand. The picture can also be seen as Pakistan’s offer of a handshake for peace and harmony and India’s wariness.

In the days following Bhagat Singh’s daring exploits, poet Majaz had advised the beauties of his day to turn the scarf into a flag. These times, however, are different and as the gospels say there is a time to fight and a time to make up. So there is a place for the flag and an occasion for the scarf and it is best not to mix the two.

A pessimistic friend has warned me not to read too much into the foreign minister’s appointment. There is no change in policy, he says, it’s just that the incumbent government wants to be seen as favouring women. I say no harm. Much good has been done in history unwittingly. A single visit by her has had a welcome impact. You are just not watching.

*Translated from Urdu


Intezar Hussain

Intezaar Hussain

An eminent Urdu fiction writer who writes short stories and novels, and also columns for newspapers in English.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.