When external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj travelled to Pakistan recently, she met four generations of the Sharif family — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his mother, daughter and granddaughters.
Swaraj revealed this in the Lok Sabha last Monday. What she did not was a few nostalgic and personal moments with Shamim Akhtar – Sharif’s mother – who had sought a ‘promise’ from her.
“Tu mere watan se aayi hai, vada kar sambandh sudhar ke jayegi (You have come from my country, promise me you will return only after normalising the relationship),” Akhtar reportedly told Swaraj, as she hugged and kissed the Indian minister on her forehead during the meeting.
According to a source who travelled with Swaraj to Pakistan, the Indian minister sought Akhtar’s blessings, saying, “Aapka saya hai to sab achcha hoga (Everything will be good in your shadow).”
During her chat with Swaraj, Akhtar referred to India as “my country” several times and told Swaraj she was born in Bheem ka Katra in Amritsar in undivided India, the source said.
She also turned nostalgic and told Swaraj she was meeting somebody from her “homeland” for the first time after Partition.
“The meeting was equally nostalgic for Swaraj,” the source said.
Sharif’s mother had a grudge that she could never visit her “watan” (India) after Partition, but was fond of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had sent a shawl for her. “Whenever he (Modi) calls him (Sharif), he always enquires about me. I feel good,” Akhtar reportedly said.
After Swaraj’s trip, the two sides decided to resume talks.
The foreign minister — who perhaps realised that a personal connect can do wonders in foreign relations – did not forget to convey a message to Akhtar before ending the trip.
“Tell your grandmother that I have kept my promise of normalising the relationship between the two countries,” Swaraj reportedly told Mariyam, Sharif’s daughter over the phone before flying out of Islamabad.