Mango diplomacy sweetens US-Pakistan ties

Published July 23, 2023
AMERICAN, Afghan and European guests fetch Pakistani mangoes.—Asim Siddiqui
AMERICAN, Afghan and European guests fetch Pakistani mangoes.—Asim Siddiqui

WASHINGTON: When regular diplomacy does not work, mango diplom­acy does or at least it did for the Pakistan Embassy on Thursday evening. The sweetness brought US officials, lawmakers, think-tank experts, journalists, and even undeclared PTI supporters under one roof.

“The United States has important security arra­n­gements with Pakistan,” said Chairman House Fo­­reign Affairs Commit­tee Michael McCaul while thanking Ambas­sador Masood Khan for inviting him to enjoy “delicious Pakistani mangoes.”

Acknowledging the im­­portance of the security ties, he said, “Through trade and economic inve­s­­tments in Pakistan, the two countries would be­­come closer partners and bring peace to our nations.”

Congressman McCaul recalled that his native state Texas has had close ties with Pakistan, and he wanted “to continue the tradition”. Texas is, perhaps, the only US state where Pakistani mangoes are easily available.

Pamela Constable, The Washington Post’s South Asia correspondent, while nibbling a piece of Chaunsa, also emphasi­sed the need for a closer partnership and sugges­ted sweetening it with mangoes.

So did Nazira Karimi, an Afghan journalist who never hides her bitterness towards Pakistan, but she was all smiles at the mango festival. Perhaps mangoes’ sweetness suppressed her sourness as well.

Robin Raphel, a retired senior US diplomat, was sipping a glass of mango lassi when a Pakistani-American guest advised a journalist, who was talking to her, “not to mention the case of exploding mangoes.” She laughed and moved away.

PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui, addressed the gathering after Congress­man McCaul, attempted to translate one of Ghalib’s couplets about mangoes, calling the mangoes sealed glasses of honey. Honey and mangoes, really? Apparently, faithful translations are not always the best.

Senator Hidayatullah of ANP was more careful. “Let me eat first,” he replied when asked if he liked the mangoes. The two senators and Pakis­tani journalists were forced out of the mango festival for a brief press conference where both senators blamed Imran Khan and PTI for the current political crisis.

But both also opposed banning PTI from the next elections while Senator Hidayatullah said his party was against banning Imran Khan as well.

“Try him. Punish him, but do not ban him,” he said. The two senators warned that banning politicians and political parties does not work. “It only increases their popularity,” said Senator Siddiqui.

Deputy Administrator for the US Small Business Administration (SBA) Di­­lawar Syed, Connec­ticut State Representative Maryam Khan, and MNA Shakeela Khalid Luqman loved their mangoes, lassi, kheer, and chutney. Mango was the main ingredient in all these products. Other guests — ambassadors of friendly nations, Congressional staff, and leaders of the Pakistani American community — were too busy with their mangoes to talk to the media.

“They are the best mangoes in the world,” said the wife of a Latin American ambassador when asked for comments.

Senator Siddiqui congratulated Mr Khan for this fine display of “mango diplomacy,” which he said was an effective tool to win over friends. Mr Khan told the guests that the embassy had served Chaunsa, Sindhri, Anwar Ratol, Langra, and Dussheri but Pakistan has dozens of other varieties too and each had its own taste.

The guests also visited various stalls that showcased different products made with Pakistani mangoes, such as achar and chutney.

Published in Dawn, July 23th, 2023

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