Wednesday, July 27, 2011



Ms.Hina Rabbani Khar, the young and seemingly forward-looking Foreign Minister of Pakistan, brought in a breath of fresh air during her short visit to New Delhi on July 26-27,2011, for talks with her Indian counterpart Mr.S.M.Krishna to review the progress in the dialogue process covering various issues since the last meeting of Shri Krishna with her predecessor, Mr.Shah Mehmood Qureshi at Islamabad in July last year.

2. What a near diplomatic disaster the previous meeting between Shri Krishna and Mr.Qureshi was due to the totally negative and undiplomatic attitude of Mr.Qureshi who used the joint press conference at the end of the talks and another interaction with the media subsequently to talk disparagingly of the Indian Foreign Minister and in unduly critical terms on India’s attitude to the dialogue process--- particularly on the Kashmir issue!

3. The set-back that the dialogue process suffered due to the attitude of Mr.Qureshi has since been set right as a result of the positive outcome of the subsequent meetings between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries at Thimpu in Bhutan in February,2011, in the margins of a SAARC meeting and between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousef Raza Gilani at Mohali in Indian Punjab in the margins of the World Cup cricket Semi-final between India and Pakistan in the last week of March and the more businesslike attitude adopted by the senior bureaucrats of the two countries from the Interior/Home Ministries, the Foreign Offices and other concerned Ministries involved in the dialogue process during the interactions that followed the departure of Mr.Qureshi from the Pakistani Foreign Office in February last.

4.Ms.Khar,a hand-picked choice of President Asif Ali Zardari initially as the Minister of State for External Affairs and subsequently elevated as the Foreign Minister on the eve of her visit to India, is a Multani ( a Seraiki) like Prime Minister Gilani. She has sought to bring in a new mindset and impart a new stamp to the way Pakistan handles the dialogue process---- reducing the atmosphere of contention which has been the bane of the dialogue process and injecting an element of decency in the way the Pakistani interlocutors interact with their Indian counterparts.

5. The various issues bedevilling the bilateral relations---Jammu & Kashmir, cross-border terrorism, Siachen, bilateral trade, water-related differences--- remain stuck up where they were stuck up when she took over the responsibility for the conduct of Pakistan’s diplomacy, but she has sought to change the ambiance of the bilateral interactions by introducing an element of decency in discourse that was markedly absent under her predecessor.

6. Her visit has given rise to hopes for a change in the mind-set as a result of a new generation of policy-makers coming to the fore in the Pakistani Foreign Office under her youthful leadership and guidance. Whether she ultimately succeeds in changing the mind-set or not would depend on the attitude of the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which must be watching her moves. Her elevation as the full-fledged Foreign Minister and her being put in charge of the dialogue process with India was a carefully-calculated, but subtle attempt by Mr.Zardari to regain civilian autonomy in policy-making towards India.

7. Whether he succeeds or not would depend on how well Ms Khar conducts her diplomacy----by keeping up the slow but steady forward momentum in the relations with India without creating undue alarm in the General Headquarters. There is a need for a new mind-set not only in the Pakistani Foreign Office, but also in its Army and the ISI. Changing the mind-set of the Army and the ISI is not in the hands of a youthful Minister like Ms.Khar who is taking her first steps in the tricky world of Indo-Pak diplomacy. The Army has to realise the need for a change in its mind-set towards India.

8.Normally, one would have been highly skeptic about the possibility of a change of mind-set in the Army and the ISI. But the Army and the ISI are highly chastened as a result of their humiliating experience at the hands of the US since the beginning of this year. There has been an introspection going on in Pakistan at various levels on the wisdom of continuing its past policies of over-dependence on the US and unnecessary confrontation with India. If this introspection leads to a realisation in the Army of the need for a change in the mind-set towards India, one can hope to see the breath of fresh air introduced by Ms.Khar gain strength and speed.

9. This article may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of July 9,2011, titled INDIA-PAKISTAN: LEARNING TO LIKE EACH OTHER at
( 27-7-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: . Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )


( From the web site Pakistani Leaders Online ( )

Federal Minister for
Foreign Affairs

MNA, NA-177 (Muzaffargarh-II)

Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians


Hina Rabbani Khar

Hina Rabbani Khar was born on January 19, 1977 in Multan. Proud of her ancestral village and all that life gave her, Hina is a buoyantly zestful lady. A graduate of ‘University of Massachusetts - USA’, she has all that it takes to be a leader. A businesswoman by profession, she graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) from Lahore University of Management Sciences in 1999, and received her M.Sc. degree in Management from University of Massachusetts, U.S.A in 2001.

She has her roots in Village ‘Khar Gharbi’ located in Tehsil Kot Addu, and politically affiliated now with PPPP. She got elected as Member of National Assembly (MNA) in 2008 elections from NA-177, Muzaffargarh-II for the second time. Earlier, she won the elections in 2002 from the platform of PML-Q and was the Parliamentary Secretary for Economic Affairs and Statistics.

Hina Rabbani Khar remained Pakistan’s State Minister for Economic Affairs. The State Ministers report directly to the Prime Minister and hold specific portfolios. In Hina’s case, she was responsible for international (multilateral and bilateral) grants and loans. Her Ministry’s the official signatory for any project that is launched in Pakistan with foreign financial assistance. Her father, Ghulam Rabbani Khar, drove Hina into politics, setting her on a different path from the hotel management career she had been pursuing with great zeal. She is a co-owner of the Polo Lounge, an upscale, popular restaurant located on the Lahore Polo Grounds.

She feels that being in the Federal Government is as good as it can get. She has no issues, whatsoever, with being a woman. In fact, she feels that it is more positive than negative as one gets a lot more recognition and opportunities, and a lot of it has to do with how professional the person is. Her age did matter at times, because by any standard, she is quite very young to be in such a position. However her rich work experience and on-the-job training helped her and above all she took herself seriously; so did everyone else. She regards President Musharraf and Ex-Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz as leaders of great worth. To her both these leaders are highly educated and professional and they surely made a difference.

Elaborating on the policies of President Musharraf, she expressed her regard for President Musharraf as a visionary leader. She acknowledged the people of Pakistan as resilient and strong but detested few segments of our society: who adopt a western culture and regard it as something good. She feels that there has been a huge revolution in the last few years. She graduated in 1999 from LUMS and then left for USA. In these six years, she feels that there has been a paradigm shift. The society has moved towards modernization and westernization. Hina Khar feels that today it is hard to distinguish Pakistan's urban citizens from the Westerners. However, she opined that it can be done with sophistication, if at all it’s necessary. She cannot stand people who are not proud to be Pakistanis, whether they are here in Pakistan or settled abroad. She hates people changing their names to be ‘vilayati’ (foreign) and acquired accents and other things of the sort. She believes we have to understand and accept the culture we're living in and be proud of it to really stand out on our own. Emulating selective aspects of another culture doesn't really translate into true social progress.

She is a proud Pakistani and regards this very feeling as her most treasured asset. She really feels proud of whatever God has given her: her family, her village, her background, and everything. She feels that Pakistan has a great deal to offer. She loves trekking. She recollected her visit to Nanga Parbat and K2 (with the ‘LUMS Adventure Society’) with joyfulness; nostalgia gripped her and she appreciated the diversity of the landscape and the hospitality of people as enough to warm one’s heart towards this country. In Pakistan, people and places make you feel welcome. Freedom of expression is also a thing, unique to Pakistan. She said that even in the remotest areas, one can sit at a railway station to have tea with the porters and have a real conversation with them. Then, during the elections process, when she visited her constituents, she found them to be hospitable in spite of their limited means. A guy earning Rs.3000 a month will lay out a feast for his guests. It all speaks to the generous and warm nature of our culture, which is definitely something we should be proud of!

She considers herself extremely lucky. She is happy for the way her mind is constantly challenged in terms of working hours, the changes she can make, and the room for innovation is just tremendous. She has been able to make some changes that aren’t very popular, but in the long term they are great for Pakistan, e.g. in the telecommunications and banking sectors. However she feels that on the flip side, there are no guarantees in the political field, so she did not comment on how much control she has over making it a lifelong career. She regards working with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and President Musharraf as one of the biggest factors in her sense of pride for Pakistan.

Hina Rabbani Khar has travelled to USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands, U.A.E, Saudi Arabia and Singapore. She is single and enjoys riding, reading and travelling. She is also a member of the Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF) Pakistan.

She is articulate, brilliant, enterprising, and very far-sighted even at such a young age. Moreover, she is humble, approachable, professional, and knows her job very well. At the end of the day, if we have more people like her in our government, perhaps Pakistan’s positive image won’t need any marketing beyond simply introducing them to the world!

She is the first woman to present the budget speech in national assembly on 13 June, 2009.