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Lahore Diary
Why Pak is not granting MFN status to India?
by Rajiv Sharma

William Shakespeare was not a diplomat and that is why he had said: “What is there in a name? A rose will smell as sweet if called by any other name.” But in diplomacy, particularly in the India-Pakistan context, this is not so.

Pakistan has not granted India a most favoured nation (MFN) status despite the fact New Delhi conferred this status on Islamabad unilaterally years ago. Strange it may seem but the real culprit is the Urdu translation of the word “MFN”. In Pakistan, the official translation of MFN is “sabse pyara mulk”. The flavour of the word “favoured” does not reflect reality, from Pakistani point of view, when the official Urdu translation is invoked. So, what can be the solution?

Either Pakistan changes the translation of the word “favoured” in its official records in Urdu to suit the Indo-Pak historical realities or let the issue remain on the back-burner. No prizes for guessing which option the Pakistani establishment is exercising.

Natwar’s support to babus

SAFMA Chairman Imtiaz Alam, a Pakistani journalist, on Thursday commented in his article in a Pakistani newspaper that the ‘babus’ in the Foreign Offices of India and Pakistan were slow and caused problems in the peace process. The article coincided with a reception SAFMA hosted in honour of External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh.

The Indian Minister was obviously well briefed about Alam’s article. He told the SAFMA gathering that ‘babus’ in the Indian foreign office should not be criticised because he had started his diplomatic career as an Under Secretary in the MEA.

Visa liberalisation

It was several months ago when both Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri had publicly announced steps which promised to usher in a dramatically liberalised visa regime between the two countries. India, on its part, did deliver on many of promises and went ahead unilaterally with several schemes that eased the visa regime for Pakistani nationals’ visit to India. But the Pakistani promises still remain empty words.

The example of over two dozen Indian journalists who travelled to Pakistan to cover Natwar Singh’s Pakistan visit (February 15-17) is a case in point. The Indian journos were given a visa only for seven days and that too for Islamabad and Lahore only. The Indians were not given visa for Rawalpindi—Islamabad’s twin city. Sustained requests from the Indian journalists in Islamabad for grant of on-the-spot visa for Rawalpindi also met with polite “no’s”.

This gives rise to the question: whether SAFMA has failed in its self-appointed role of people’s voice of reason as far as the Pakistan foreign office is concerned? 

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