Ramzan brings taste of India's finest sweets to Pak
Islamabad: Every year during the Islamic holy month of Ramzan, the Indian High Commission in Pakistan mounts an operation with military-like precision to spread goodwill and give Pakistanis a taste of some of India's finest sweets.
A small group of staff members of the High Commission travels from Islamabad to Delhi in a van to bring back hundreds of boxes packed with kaju katlis, sohan halwa and barfis and cans of rasgollas, cham chams and gulab jamuns.
The sweets are then distributed among a diverse group that includes ministers, politicians, military officers, academics, civil society activists and journalists in the week before the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr.
From Islamabad, sweets are also sent to people in Karachi and Lahore.
"Everything has to be planned well in advance. Detailed lists of people who will receive the sweets are drawn up and then orders are placed for the sweets with the manufacturer in Delhi," said an official of the High Commission.
"The timing is essential the sweets have a limited shelf life and the orders must be placed at just the right time. They must be transported from India in the shortest possible time and then distributed among hundreds of people," the official told.
The staff members stay in Delhi just long enough for the sweets to be packed in the van and then drive back to Islamabad.
The sweets, which are very popular among Pakistanis, are then sent to recipients in different cities.
"The kaju katlis, which aren't available in Pakistan, are especially popular among the Pakistanis," the official said.
Baqir Sajjad, the foreign affairs correspondent of the Dawn newspaper, said the move allows Pakistanis to get a glimpse of another side of the Indian government.
"It is a strong gesture. We, as journalists, quite often see the hard face of Indo-Pakistan diplomacy, but such gifts remind us that there is a softer and gentler side to it too," he said.
The distribution of sweets was not stopped even when bilateral relations were affected by events like the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The tradition continued even after Delhi suspended the bilateral dialogue process in the aftermath of the terrorist assault on India's financial hub that was blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Mushahid Hussain Syed, a former federal minister and current chairman of the Defence Committee of the Senate or upper house of Parliament, agreed that such steps helped improve atmospherics between the two countries.
"I am one of the recipients of the boxes of sweets that are part of the soft diplomacy by the Indian High Commission. The sweets, which come with a greeting card for Eid-ul-Fitr that has a message in Urdu and English, are popular," Syed told a news agency.
He said the representation of Pakistani parties at a recent iftar-dinner hosted by Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal too reflected the "broad outreach" of the envoy.