The India Couture Week ended in New Delhi on Monday night with a dazzling show of glittering bridal wear and celebrity cheerleaders; gorgeous models shimmering in diamante studded silk and chiffon and a party where everyone air kissed as if they were goldfish in Gucci.
On Tuesday, the hottest model of India-Pakistan Friendship week, the pulchritudinous Hina Rabbani Khar walked the Kashmir catwalk. Dressed in a comely blue that set off her pink lipstick and bling, she must’ve been a sight for the sore eyes of the Kashmiri anti-India leaders who met her at the Pakistani High Commission for tea and cookies.
The Indian Foreign Office was nonchalant as usual whenever Pakistan embarrasses New Delhi: the Indian foreign minister may not have Khar’s youthful good looks on his side but he has an extensive collection of wigs and good manners. And India, whenever it deals with Pakistan, of embarrassments.
Khar meeting Kashmiri separatists was not good form, especially before she was to meet any other Indian official, and that too a day before her meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Krishna was scheduled. She is to meet Sonia Gandhi, the opposition party BJPs leaders L. K. Advani and Sushma Swraj and even drop in to cheer up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is increasingly looking glum after being accused of complicity through detachment in scams. After all Khar had come to talk détente. There is a protocol observed between nations in both diplomacy and war, but perhaps, not when diplomacy is war by other means. If the Indian external affairs ministry was embarrassed, it did not show it.
This can happen only in India: Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Kashmir’s ageing terrorist ace, whose hartals would shut Kashmir down, meeting the Pakistani foreign minister on Indian soil and asking for its intervention to help Kashmir be free of India.
Pakistan’s ISI has been actively involved in masterminding terror attacks against India and Geelani has no qualms about admitting that those who are dying in Kashmir are serving a worthy cause: never mind that he stays far away from rubber bullets, living in his fortified house in Srinagar, under apparent house arrest.
However, whenever he wants to, he arrives in Delhi in his impeccable white clothes and fez cap, in spite of the house arrest. This can happen only in India, and only Pakistan would officially accept a known separatist to step on its diplomatic soil in New Delhi. On Monday, 25 July, the camera-obsessed Kashmiri militant leader and founder of the now defunct JKLF, Yasin Malik had met Khar in Lahore to lobby for an India-free Kashmir. Imagine King Harald receiving Breivik for schnapps at home.
Imagine Baloch separatist leaders meeting the Indian foreign minister at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and later making public statements that they have sought India’s good offices to get Balochistan’s independence from Pakistan.
Pakistan, obsessed with Kashmir and a powerful India is only embarrassing itself. After ISI agent Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai’s arrest in Virginia a week ago, and reports of how Pakistan has been pouring in millions of dollars to damage India through its lobbies overseas, it may have been better if Khar had given tea with Geelani a miss.
But the ISI being what it is, its reputation for subtlety as good as that of a runaway train, would’ve encouraged the meeting. The Indian government obviously knew the meetings were going to happen, and rubbed their hands in glee as the clueless socialist restaranteur turned foreign minister Khar did her Kashmir tutorial.
Maybe India has a plan after all.
Pakistan is making a fool of itself in India. National and religious self righteousness today has a new name and a bad one, Andreas Behring Breivik. He has succeeded in even inadvertently embarrassing the Hindu right after it was revealed in his manifesto how much he appreciated them.
India’s greatest strength is its weakness. In its multiculturalism and restraint towards provocation, India shows itself as a country amused by Pakistan’s desperate attempts to elicit a provocation. Pakistan’s greatest weakness is its obsession with India’s strength.
Currently Pakistan desperately needs a global image of a sensible nation that abjures violence and terror sponsorship: perhaps the reason behind all the current diplomatic PR. Khar’s powwow with Kashmiri leaders only embarrasses Pakistan internationally and shows India as a generous, tolerant and polite host. In the haute couture of Subcontinental diplomacy, Hina needs some more ramp lessons. The ISI makes a lousy designer.
(Ravi Shankar, Executive Editor of New Indian Express in Delhi, can be reached at: email@example.com)