New Delhi/Islamabad: Criticised by opposition parties in India for speaking Urdu during her stay in Pakistan, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj earned lavish praise from Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sahrif for her fluency in the language.
"Aapki Urdu to hamari Urdu se behtar hai (Your Urdu is better than mine)," Nawaz Sharif told Sushma, as the two leaders switched between four languages - English, Hindi and Punjabi were the others - during a 40-minute conversation. "Meri Urdu mein Punjabi ka influence hai na (My Urdu carries Punjabi influences)."
According to the official present in the meeting, Sharif's praise was a part of an elaborate, 24-hour charm offensive the Pakistan Prime Minister and his team unleashed on Sushma and her delegation, suggest accounts of two senior Indian officials and a top Pakistani diplomat.
The officials also said Sharif’s unexpected praise helped the two sides in diffusing the latent tension in the meeting hall due to disagreements while thrashing out a joint statement.
Back home, however, Swaraj was not lucky as in Pakistan, and had to face criticism for talking in a “foreign” language. But, unlike other leaders, possibly from the Congress who could not have replied to such criticism, Sushma maintained her grit and hit back saying she did not do anything wrong.
“People even criticised me over speaking in Urdu. I would like to tell those people that Urdu is also my country’s language”, she retorted.
“When I can deliver a speech in Sanskrit at the World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok, why can’t I speak in Urdu when I meet the Pakistani media?” she asked.
Speaking in Urdu was not the only ‘crime’, Sushma had committed in Pakistan. To her adversaries from the opposition benches, her choice of sari color too was a ‘surrender’ and ‘appeasement’, the terms normally coined for anything that has a ‘Muslim’ touch.
“People find such strange things to criticise… Why was my saree green? Why did I speak in Urdu? “, Sushma was at her best in the parliament.
“I wear a green saree every Wednesday, and that day was a Wednesday”, she said in the parliament on Monday.