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Loose cannons mar applause for Hina Khar

July 28, 2011

Pakistan’s newly installed Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, arrives at the airport in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, July 26, 2011. – AP Photo

New Delhi: Save for an ill-conceived threat by India’s retiring air force chief to nuke Pakistan and a goofy politician’s warning to Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar not to trust China, even as Beijing’s envoy in Delhi watched, the Indian media’s fulsome praise for the visitor from Islamabad was a rare moment to relish.

A report on Wednesday said Defence Minister A.K. Antony “was not amused” by comments by Air Chief Marshal P. V. Naik to the effect that India’s response to a possible Pakistani nuclear Attack would be “very heavy”.

The IAF chief retires on Sunday and the defence minister felt the comments were in bad taste when the two countries were holding foreign minister-level talks.

Naik was apparently responding to a media query on the new Pakistani tactical nuclear missile ‘Nasr’ which is touted to be a ‘game-changer’ in a future war.

In another diplomatic incident, senior rightwing politician Ram Jethmalani extracted an invitation for a dinner hosted for Ms Khar by Pakistan’s envoy Shahid Malik. Claiming to be a friend of Pakistan he then proceeded to be allowed to make a brief after-dinner speech which was grudgingly granted.

After rambling on incoherently about Ms Khar’s good looks he complicated life for his hosts by turning the occasion into China-bashing. An angry high commissioner had to take the mike from his guest and stress that the insulting remarks about a close friend of Pakistan were uncalled for.

However, that may have been the only moment when Ms Khar looked uncomfortable during her maiden trip to India. The bigger story was that the Indian media was awestruck by the superior ease with which she went about her business.

“Pak Puts On Its Best Face,” noted The Times of India, while mass circulation Hindi newspaper Navbharat Times said India was “sweating over model-like minister”.

“Pak bomb lands in India,” joked the Mumbai Mirror tabloid in a tongue-in-cheek reference to the history of wars between the countries and attacks by Pakistani militant groups on Indian soil.

The Mail Today tabloid devoted extensive space to her choice of outfit as she flew into New Delhi airport on Tuesday.

“The 34-year-old minister scored full marks on the fashion front when she was spotted at the Delhi airport in a monotone outfit of blue — the colour of the season,” it said.

“Tasteful accessories — Roberto Cavalli sunglasses, oversized Hermes Birkin bag and classic pearl jewellery — added a hint of glamour to her look,” it added.

The Telegraph newspaper meanwhile compared fresh-faced Ms Khar with her elderly counterpart S.M. Krishna.

“In the unkind world of adjectives, the odds are stacked against SMK and in favour of HRK,” it said, using the ministers’ initials. “Khar carries with ease descriptions such as ‘stunning’ and ‘petite'.”

“All eyes on glamorous Pak minister,” said the Rediff website. “She is clearly being looked at as a perfect combination of beauty and brains.”

Journalist and author Seema Goswami saw a link between the monsoonal downpour that struck the Indian capital on Wednesday morning and the generally fawning coverage of Ms Khar.

“Even the Delhi skies are drooling,” she wrote. The minister will visit the Ajmer shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti on Thursday before flying back home from there.