Ancient Indian texts mention the concept of Brahmastra, a weapon conceived by Brahma, the creator of the universe. So potent is it that once discharged, neither a counter attack nor any defense can stop it.
In colloquial terms it can imply deploying an emissary who is irresistible. Think Cleopatra within a rolled-up carpet!
On 27 July, Pakistan, eschewing its nuclear stockpile, launched a brahmastra against India - its winsome new foreign minister. 34-year-old Hina Rabbani Khar was in India to hold talks with her Indian counterpart, the 79-year-old S M Krishna. The foreign ministers of the nuclear-armed neighbours are holding their first talks in a year, hoping to resuscitate a peace process that was snuffed out by the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai.
The lone surviving gunman from that attack was a Pakistani national and India has directly blamed Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) for orchestrating the coordinated shooting and bombing attacks.
Lately, Pakistan has found itself facing recriminations from several directions.
The United States ferreted out Osama bin Laden from a villa in a military garrison town a short distance from the national capital Islamabad. Expectedly, relations between the two nations are at a record low. US is the largest source of bilateral aid to Pakistan and pressure is building to cut the high level of financial assistance.
India’s claims have received a recent validation. At hearings in a Chicago court in May 2011, David Headley, an operative of the Islamic militant outfit LeT, has confessed to the role of Pakistan’s spy agency in executing the terror strikes of 2008.
To add to Pakistan’s woes the FBI has identified that Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmiri American Council was campaigning for self-determination in Kashmir at the direction of the ISI which provided him at least US$ 4 million to influence American policy on the issue.
If that weren’t enough the bomb blasts in Mumbai on 13 July have again renewed questions about Pakistan’s willingness to crackdown on militants on its soil. The coordinated rush-hour explosions in India’s financial capital shook the nation and set people hyperventilating on the foreign hand behind them. While the Indian Government has not assigned any blame preferring to let the investigation run its course, the implications for the proposed talks between the two nations looked dire.
Pakistan is, to use a cricketing terminology, on a sticky wicket.
In turn, Prime Minister Gilani has responded on front foot. He has rubbished Headley’s claims that he attended his father’s funeral, and dismissed Fai as belonging to “Indian Occupied Kashmir”. He reiterated that India and Pakistan had no option but to talk and claimed credit for the “no blame game” after the recent Mumbai attacks on account of his interactions with his Indian counterpart. Critically, barely a week before the crucial peace talks in India, he ended a five-month job vacancy by swearing in the nation’s first woman foreign minister, and also its youngest.
In a move that would have won the approval of Groucho Marx, Mr Gilani has shown that he has his principles, and if folks didn’t like them, he could demonstrate others.
If reports in the media are anything to go by, Mr Gilani’s brahmastra has paid off. The charm offensive is working as Indian media - vigilant as a pit bull - is gushing over the Foreign Minister. Her sartorial choices have been applauded, she has been described as “a perfect combination of beauty and brains” and her physical similarity to a Bollywood actress is being furiously discussed online.
“Pak Puts On Its Best Face” noted The Times of India, the biggest-selling English-language daily while a popular Mumbai tabloid remarked cheekily, “Pak bomb lands in India”, referring both to the history of wars between the countries and the strategic use of a brahmastra.
Indian media is agog with new CBMs expected in the wake of the talks. You’ll be forgiven for mistaking CBM as Comic Book Movie discussion - after all we have a running gag about how the two counterparts keep holding talks about future talks when they shall resolve the contentious issue of Kashmir. This time around there is hope that the infinite regress might yield something concrete as the two foreign ministers are expected to announce new confidence building measures (CBM).