x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

India swoons over Pakistan's new female foreign minister

Commentators in India were more interested in Hina Rabbani Hhar's accessories - Roberto Cavalli sunglasses, oversized Hermes Birkin bag and 'classic- pearl jewellery - than in the new Pakistani foreign minister's policies.

Members of the Fight against Terrorism Society hold posters and shout slogans during a protest against the visit of Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, to India, in New Delhi yesterday.
Members of the Fight against Terrorism Society hold posters and shout slogans during a protest against the visit of Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, to India, in New Delhi yesterday.

NEW DELHI // Pakistan's new 34-year-old female foreign minister has won instant fans in India where a flurry of flattering headlines yesterday greeted her first trip to the country.

Hina Rabbani Khar appeared to have made an instant impact on the tense bilateral relations, with her photo adorning the front pages of most Indian newspapers.

"Pak Puts On Its Best Face," said The Times of India, the biggest-selling English-language daily, while mass circulation Hindi newspaper Navbharat Times said India was "sweating over model-like minister."

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

The Indian media is not known for assessing the dress-sense of Pakistani visitors, but the Mail Today tabloid devoted space to her choice of outfit as she flew in to 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 Indian Twittersphere was also ablaze with commentary on the Pakistani envoy, who was promoted last week to take over from her predecessor, Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Many took exception to the intense scrutiny of her appearance and fashion accessories, particularly the luxury Hermes handbag, saying that male visitors to India were never subjected to similar analysis.

But one right-wing blogger, Pragmatic_d, replied: "You don't carry a bag that is a serious fraction of your country's fiscal deficit and not expect it to be commented upon."

Ms Khar's decision to meet Kashmiri separatists at the start of the trip was a blot on an otherwise positive introduction to the Indian public at a time when the neighbours are trying to re-invigorate their peace process.

A leading television anchor, Barkha Dutt, described Ms Khar as "self-assured and easygoing" and someone who "brought some freshness and youth to otherwise formal fare."

"She continues to dominate all Delhi chatter," she wrote on Twitter.

The Telegraph newspaper drew comparisons between Ms Khar, a married mother of two who caused a stir at home after being photographed in tight jeans, and her 79-year-old 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'."

Not everybody welcomed the new minister, however. Members of the Fight against Terrorism Society held a protest in New Delhi against the visit of Ms Khar to India, because og the alleged links between Pakistan and terrorist attacks in India.