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The Hina factor in India-Pakistan talks

Amid  cynicism in Pakistan's predominantly patriarchal establishment, President Asif Ali Zardari justified her appointment, saying it would "send positive signals about the soft image of Pakistan". Ms Khar has become Pakistan's 26th foreign minister at a time when her country is suffering perhaps the worst image crisis and is being repeatedly singled out as a patron for terrorists and jihadists. By Manish Chand

Jul 31, 2011

 

By Manish Chand

When 34-year-old Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's youngest and first woman Foreign Minister, holds talks with her Indian counterpart SM Krishna, 45 years her senior, the world will be watching to see how she handles her first major diplomatic outing and navigates the troubled waters of the India-Pakistan relationship.

Ms Khar touched down in Delhi on special flight on Tuesday amid intense interest. Her trip to India comes just a week after her appointment was formalized.
 
Amid widespread cynicism in Pakistan's predominantly patriarchal establishment, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari justified her appointment, saying it would "send positive signals about the soft image of Pakistan".
A postgraduate in hospitality and tourism from the University of Massachusetts, Ms Khar comes from a wealthy feudal family in southern Punjab and owns Lahore's posh Polo Lounge, a haunt of the rich and the powerful. Her father is a large landowner from Muzaffargarh. Her uncle Ghulam Mustafa Kar was the subject of "My Feudal Lord", a biting account of patriarchal society in Pakistan penned by his fifth wife Tehmina Durrani. Ms Khar is known to be fond of polo and trekking.

Ms Khar has become Pakistan's 26th foreign minister at a time when her country is suffering perhaps the worst image crisis and is being repeatedly singled out as a patron for terrorists and jihadists. 
Satish Chandra, a former deputy national security adviser and a former envoy to Islamabad, says her youth won't be a disadvantage. On the contrary, she could provide an image advantage to Pakistan, Mr Chandra told IANS. He added that given Pakistan's military-dominated establishment it does not matter who is the foreign minister of Pakistan. "The shots are being called by the army, and when it comes to India-Pakistan relations, the script is always cleared by the army," said Chandra.
 
"Having entered politics through the military, she is likely to be influenced by the military which calls the shots on India-Pakistan relations," said G Parthasarathy, former high commissioner to Pakistan.
Ms Khar entered politics in 2002 and became a member of national assembly of the PML-Q party, affiliated with then Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf.
 
She joined the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) ahead of the February 2008 general election and was made Minister of State for Economic Affairs by the Zardari government in 2008. 
 
Her rise has been meteoric since, propelled by favourable circumstances. Barely four days after then Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's removal, she was named Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. 
 
On the India front, there is, however, a window of opportunity. If her country can sustain the revived peace process, Ms Khar, too, will share the credit.


(IANS)

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