All eyes on Hina, cricket diplomacy (Sidelights: India-Pakistan talks)

July 27th, 2011 - 9:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) All eyes were on Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s youngest and first female foreign minister, when she appeared at a joint press stakeout with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna at Hyderabad House, the venue for high-profile diplomatic engagements.

Dressed in a cream salwar kameez with her head gently covered, Khar surprised Indian journalists with her eloquence and poise. Given the fact that it was her first major diplomatic outing, Khar, a post-graduate in hospitality and tourism from a US university, did not appear even faintly nervous.

On the contrary, compared to Krishna who read out mostly from notes, Khar spoke without looking at the notes, and imbued the talks with the spirit of youth when she spoke about “a new era” in bilateral ties. “A new generation of India and Pakistan will see a relationship which is going to be much different then the one we experienced in the last few decades,” Khar, who also owns a posh club in Lahore frequented by the wealthy and the powerful, said.

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Sports diplomacy

While summing up the over two hours of talks she had with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar recalled that the Indian minister told her about the Commonwealth Games New Delhi hosted last October when the Pakistani contingent got the loudest cheers after the Indian delegation.

It is in this spirit we need to sustain the dialogue process, she said.

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Cricket talk

Reviving cricket ties was among a host of people-centric initiatives Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar discussed with her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna. A polo and trekking enthusiast, Khar made a pitch for reviving cricketing ties with the neighbouring country which were suspended after the 26/11 carnage.

Krishna, a tennis-loving septuagenarian, exuded youthful energy when sporting ties came up during discussions. Krishna, according to a source, told Khar to revive hockey matches.

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Hafiz Saeed? Who?

Thanks to astute low-key media diplomacy, the shadow of Hafiz Saeed, the virulent anti-India ideologue and the suspected mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai terror, seems to be lifting from the India-Pakistan relationship.

When asked about Saeed’s latest tirade against India, Pakistan’s mild-mannered Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir pleaded against an individual’s views being mixed up with those of the state, a far cry from a time when he famously dismissed evidence linking Pakistani militants and Saeed to 26/11 attacks as “literature”.

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