The mother of all diplomacy

  • Col Avnish Sharma (retd), Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jul 10, 2014 09:38 IST

Diplomacy is a political tool to build or worsen any relations. If your wife, conscious of your health, serves you your favourite omelette every day but with reduced yolk without your knowledge, she uses yolk diplomacy.

The “Hindi Chini bhai bhai” was diversionary diplomacy, to instil complacency in traditionally non-suspecting Indians. A young Gandhi scion praised his elder cousin from the other party to the benefit of both; it was family diplomacy. Diplomacy in situations of even elections or hostilities is not uncommon.

A lasting peace in relations with Pakistan, however, has eluded us, speaking of which, one morning of early 1987 stands out in my memory. We were in the thick of the famous war exercise, Brass Tacks. As a young captain, I was the aid-de-camp (ADC) to the general officer commanding (GOC) of the armoured division. Largescale troop movement had raised hackles, with the adversary ordering mobilisation of its army along the entire western border. A faceoff looked imminent.

The tension mounted when Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan revealed that his country had manufactured a nuclear bomb. Neither side wanting an open conflict, more so our neighbour, the Pakistani dictator expressed his desire to witness India-Pakistan cricket Test match at Jaipur.

Against this background on that cold winter morning, we welcomed the-then defence minister, late VP Singh, accompanied by his deputy and the three service chiefs, to the GOC’s battle station based on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) at 60r (sand dune height). This was a routine expected visit by concerned VIPs during the course of a major military exercise.

After the GOC’s briefing, the VIPs were sharing tea with troops when I quizzed the defence minister about his views on the “cricket diplomacy” that General Zia-ul-Haq had initiated and how it would impact the present situation on the border. The minister smiled and replied: “Captain, firstly, one man coming from Pakistan can’t make his team win; and, secondly, since you fellows can’t witness the match live from where you are now, please tell your family back home to record it for you for later viewing.” A diplomatic answer to an uncertain situation expected to thaw, though temporarily.

The latest initiative, appropriate to be called “mother diplomacy”, has evoked fresh hope of camaraderie. The emotional connect that Mian Nawaz Sharif has attempted by sending our Prime Minister a saree as gift for his mother, and acknowledging graciously the return gift of a shawl for own mother is expected to forge bonhomie between two sceptical nations. Speculating the course of future on this potentially pathbreaking initiative, the chirpy member of our golf four ball, a chip of the old block, came out with the famous saying by Eve Merriam: “I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask me, mother, what was war?” Here’s hoping this mother of all diplomacy succeeds.

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