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Pakistan's penchant for 'gift diplomacy'

The country's novel form of diplomacy continues in the hope of receiving favours in return.

india Updated: Jun 19, 2006 11:45 IST

The era when Pakistan got some of the best Western writers to write in its favour, especially on the Kashmir issue, by showering titles and national honours, may be a thing of the past.

But its penchant for "gift diplomacy" continues in the hope of receiving favours in return, says a media report.

Principal adversary India, with rapid economic strides, may have beaten Pakistan in many fields but in "gift diplomacy" it is Pakistan that beats India.

On this score, it is a "no-contest" between the neighbours, the Daily Times newspaper said.

Late President Zia-ul Haq was known to surprise foreign visitors by declaring them "sadar sahib ke mehman" (president's guest), open the car door to them, treat them to sumptuous meals, complete with home-made kebabs, after which they would receive expensive carpets as gifts.

The present ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, following in his footsteps, is leading Pakistan's "gift diplomacy", the newspaper said.

Gifts are showered on visitors, and even on hosts during foreign visits.

Musharraf presented US President George W Bush with a dark wooden table inlaid with bone valued at $1,400, an antique muzzleloader from the 1800s, a cream wool Pakistani coat and a hat during his December 2004 visit to Washington.

His wife Sehba Musharraf gave First Lady Laura Bush a gold light and dark pink garnet and pink tourmaline chandelier earrings, and a 17-inch light and dark pink garnet and pink tourmaline beaded necklace, the newspaper said.

Pakistan's "munificent leaders are by far the most generous visitors to Washington, lavishing expensive gifts on American government officials from President George W Bush down to unnamed Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers".

In contrast, the paper notes, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Bush in September 2004, he gave him a round marble tabletop worth $550.

A list of gifts accepted by US officials from foreign government sources in 2004 published in the Federal Register last week shows that Pakistan outdid most countries in the world, gifting US officials carpets, rugs, shawls, jewellery and antique pieces.

"While it is normal for visiting leaders to present gifts to top US leaders, Pakistan really laid it thick, with gifts to (then) Secretary of State Colin Powell, then deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley, lower level officials, senators and even a couple of CIA employees," South Asian News Agency (SANA) added.

Over the years, Pakistan's national day list of honours includes high civilian awards - called 'Nishan', 'Hilal' and 'Tamgha' - on a large number of foreign politicians, parliamentarians, officials, military men and businessmen whose association has benefited the country.

This is in contrast to the Indian list of honours, like the Jawaharlal Nehru Award and Indira Gandhi Award for International Understanding that are given to advocates of peace, religious harmony, scientists and those who have benefited mankind.