For most of us, family always comes first. So it was not surprising to see Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s nattily dressed son, Bilawal Bhutto, in the same frame with his father and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at an official do in Paris on Tuesday. Later, we figured out that Bilawal was not the only one on the all-expenses paid trip. Dad’s army also included one of his two daughters, Asifa. Now, in case you think the Bhutto lad is a freeloader, perish the thought. He is, after all, Mr Heir Apparent and is supposed to make his debut political speech in Birmingham on August 7. The Paris detour was possibly a part of the ‘learning’ process.
This is not the first time that Zardari has used family diplomacy to disarm his hosts. During his last trip to China, he strode into the Great Hall of People in Beijing to meet his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, firmly holding the hands of his two daughters. Hu Jintao, we were told, was sufficiently puzzled at this departure from protocol. “They wanted to see you in person,” Zardari apparently told him. The next day the local media described the meeting between the two Heads of State as “a rarely seen introduction”. Rare indeed.
Now Zardari may have got the hosts to cough up for his family. We believe in paying our way. So when our netas and extended families go on a jolly and a jaunt, the loving Indian taxpayer coughs up. We realise that man lives by brood alone and the more the merrier. Our hardworking leaders need a touch of home away from home when on strenuous foreign tours. That’s why our netas have such straying, sorry, staying power. And it’s not that they are trying to sell us a bill of goods, just the plain old bill.