India and Pakistan border guards may have given the customary exchange of sweets on Eid a miss but Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sent a box of mangoes to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi as the two sides exchanged fire last week.
“Mangoes were delivered to Modi through official channels even as Pakistan was accusing us of flying a drone into its airspace,’’ an official, who did not wish to be named, told HT.
Islamabad had on July 15 claimed to have shot an “Indian spy drone” in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir but later it emerged the UAV was made in China.
Mango diplomacy came in handy the second time. Last year, the fruit, relished equally on both sides of the border, was seen as a peace offering. Mangoes were delivered soon after India called off foreign secretary talks.
Mangoes have been integral to the way Pakistan conducts diplomacy with India. On many occasions, Sharif’s predecessors, too, have let the ‘king of fruits’ do the talking.
The timing is significant this time as well. According to an official, “Mangoes were sent around the same time as foreign secretary S Jaishankar warned Pakistan of a forceful and effective response”.
Jaishankar was speaking at the press conference as Pakistan stepped up firing along the border within days of the two PMs meeting in Russia, signalling a thaw in ties. But, the heavy exchange of fire on the border brought back the chill. Both sides, however, have kept the door open for talks and the national security advisers of the two countries are expected to meet in Delhi in August.
The tension has, however, not creeped into the power corridors.
President Pranab Mukherjee and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, too, got a taste of Sharif’s mango diplomacy, as fruit boxes were also delivered at Rashtrapati Bhawan and 10 Janpath. India did its bit too. NSA Ajit Doval sent an Eid hamper to Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s high commissioner to India.
Fruits, chocolates and some silverware were delivered around the time Doval was calling Basit to express Indian concerns over border firing and an infiltration bid. Carrots and sticks or just a healthy dose of good old diplomacy?