Chivalry is dead. Or so Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is inclined to feel these days. He has been accused of using his ‘Savile Row-suited gigolo kind of charm’ to win over the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In her biography titled Twice as Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path to Power, author Marcus Mabry referring to her 2005 visit to South Asia, says: “When Rice sat down with Aziz, who fancies himself as a ladies’ man, he puffed himself up and held forth in what he obviously thought was his seductive baritone”. Later, the author added, Aziz bragged to diplomats that he could conquer any woman in two minutes. Angry Pakistan Senators have asked the PM to explain his ‘shameful conduct’. This attack is a bit unfair on the man, we think. All the dapper minister was trying to do was to entertain Ms Rice in the traditional Punjabi (read flamboyant) style to keep her mind off certain thorny issues like the A.Q. Khan case, Afghanistan and democratic reforms in Pakistan. After all, isn’t using soft power (seductive baritone) the done thing in diplomacy? What he probably didn’t account for was the fact that in order to charm a steely woman like Condi he would require more than a sharp suit and deep voice. His other mistake: he thought he didn’t lack either. The result, Condi stared the poor dear down and reduced him to a babbling wreck.
Mr Aziz gets our vote of thanks. He may have dialed the wrong number with Condi, but he has brought some colour into the dry-as-dust diplomacy of the subcontinent. For too long we have put up with preachy mandarins speaking from lofty pulpits. Along comes Mr Aziz with his theatrics and what does he get in return? Flak from all sides.