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A HISTORY LESSON : THE EFFECTIVE EXECUTION OF MANGO PROTOCOL WITH PAKISTAN










Pakistan’s Mango Diplomacy and more ………….

August 8, 2015, 7:18 pm








by Rajeewa Jayaweera













I read with much interest the recent article titled "Pakistan’s Mango Diplomacy and Lanka’s Insect Fear" in a daily publication written by one Dr Ranga Kalansooriya. 




He had narrated how in early July 1977, Pakistan’s military ruler and President Gen. Zia Ul Haq had sent a gift consignment of Pakistan’s Multan mangoes to Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike (Mrs. B). 









It had been returned with a message informing of her inability to "accept a gift from a person whose hands have the blood of Pakistan’s elected Prime Minister on them". 




Kalansooriya further stated of a consignment of mangoes sent by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to President Sirisena recently which our Foreign Ministry in their infinite wisdom had rejected for ‘technical reasons’ without the knowledge of President Sirisena. 





Similar consignments sent to Prime Minister Modi, Sonia Gandhi and President Mukherjee notwithstanding the current heightened tension in Indo-Pak relations had been accepted by recipients.




After some thought, I decided to write this piece. 



It involves Mrs. B and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. 





Theirs was a warm friendship based on mutual respect for each other and the two countries they governed. They successfully navigated through occasional minor irritants so common in diplomatic relations.




These are anecdotes narrated to me by my father Stanley Jayaweera (SJ), a career officer in the Ceylon Overseas (Foreign) Service from 1954 till 1988. He was Number 2 at the Ceylon/Sri Lanka High Commission in Islamabad from February 1972 till June 1975.





Sometime around 10 pm one evening in early 1973, our family was readying for bed when the phone rang and the Chief Clerk of the High Commission informed SJ of a telegram with the classification "Top Urgent/ Top Secret" which had been delivered to him a few minutes earlier (there were no faxes or email in those days).




 Top Urgent telegrams were in code. A ‘one time pad’ was required to decipher Top Secret telegrams and code books were in SJ’s custody. The High Commissioner at the time, a wealthy businessman from Galle and 10 years younger to SJ was away from the country resulting in Jayaweera being acting High Commissioner.




He rushed to the Chancery with the Chief Clerk who deciphered the telegram. It was a personal message from Mrs. B to Bhutto informing of critical rice stocks in Colombo sufficient for less than two weeks and seeking Bhutto’s assistance in obtaining an urgent consignment.




Running out of rice in addition to prevailing long bread queues and rationing of essential foods at the time would have brought about food riots and possibly the fall of the government.




By 1973 SJ had developed a wide contact base in the Pakistan bureaucracy especially in the Foreign Ministry. 




He immediately called the Chief of Protocol with whom he was on first name terms and requested an urgent appointment with President Bhutto the following morning to hand over a personal message from Mrs. B and returned home. 




The phone rang once again close to midnight and the Chief of Protocol informed Bhutto had granted the requested appointment at 1.00 am. SJ just managed to make it after getting into his national dress and summoning the ambassadorial vehicle and driver for the journey to the president’s residence.




The president had received him in his study dressed in silk pyjamas and dressing gown with a cognac snifter and Cuban cigar in his hand. A cigar was offered which was declined. The cognac offered was accepted. 





Bhutto who had met SJ on a few previous occasions had enquired after his family and had asked for Mrs. B’s message. After reading it he had requested the telephone operator to get the Food Commissioner on line. SJ had been privy only to one side of the conversation. 




The other side can only be imagined. Bhutto had asked what the level of rice stocks in the country was. SJ had gathered from the conversation that eight ship loads of rice had been shipped to Peru (or Chile which I forget) resulting in stocks being low. 



He instructed his Food Commissioner to divert four ships to Colombo. Within minutes, the Food Commissioner was on the line again informing all eight ships, some belonging to the Pakistan Shipping Corporation, had cleared Pakistan waters and it was too late to divert especially as it was a competitive tender Pakistan had won and non-compliance would have consequences.









 Bhutto had exploded stating "who is the President of this country, you or me?" "Our good friend Madam Bandaranaike in Colombo needs our help and I intend to help her. Please divert four ships to Colombo, call me back and confirm it to me".




A little later when SJ had shown the desire to depart, Bhutto had said
"let the good lady enjoy a good night’s sleep. You can inform her tomorrow morning that the job is done" and had poured refills of cognac. 



Within a short while, the Food Commissioner was back on line confirming that four of the ships had been instructed to change course to Colombo.








Sometime later when SJ took his leave after thanking the president on behalf of his government, Bhutto had said "this is what friends are for – to help each other. There is no hurry. Please request your Food Commissioner to get in touch with mine. We will charge a reasonable rate on best possible terms".




The four ships arrived in Colombo Port within a few days and eased the rice shortage averting a disaster for Mrs. B and her government until a much larger consignment was purchased from Burma. The Pakistani government eventually charged a per ton rate below the rate they had obtained from the Peruvian (or Chilean) tender.




Bhutto who became Prime Minister from August 1973 due to a change in the country’s Constitution, invited Mrs/ B for a state visit to Pakistan in early 1975. 




She was accorded the rare honour of addressing a joint session of the Pakistan National Assembly and Senate where her speech was received with a standing ovation. 



The honour of addressing a joint session had previously been accorded only to the Shah of Iran and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, both generous contributors to Pakistan’s economy. 



Bhutto’s prime ministerial Falcon jet was laid at Mrs. B’s disposal for her journeys from Islamabad to Lahore and Lahore to Karachi.




A curious but interesting incident took place during Mrs. B’s state banquet to Bhutto. 


It need be stated that a change of our High Commissioners had just taken place and the incumbent, a retired lawyer and former Senator had been in Pakistan for less than 10 days when Mrs. B arrived for her state visit. 




As such, SJ was the only diplomatic officer in Islamabad for nearly three months and handled all arrangements assisted by the Trade Commissioner in Karachi who played a very supportive role. 




Mrs. B had informed SJ she would like veteran Pashtun politician Khan Abdul Wali Khan invited to the state banquet hosted by her. 



That was easier said than done as Wali Khan’s National Awami Party had by then been banned and relations between him and Bhutto were anything but cordial. 




Foreign diplomats were discouraged from visiting some areas in NWFP as the Pakistan government could not guarantee their safety. 




Hence, the policy was that invitations to those in NWFP be channelled through the Protocol Division of the Foreign Ministry who would take responsibility for delivery. 




SJ knowing this particular invitation to Wali Khan had little chance of delivery, after handing over the original invitation to the Protocol Division hired a vehicle from American Express as his own vehicle had a CD number plate and journeyed to NWFP to personally deliver a copy to Wali Khan who had assured SJ he would attend if amongst the living. 



SJ had warned Mrs. B of the frosty relations between Bhutto and Wali Khan.




Senior Pakistan officials had seemed distinctly uncomfortable when Wali Khan arrived at the function. 




The Chief of Protocol could not help whispering "I say Stanley, what have you done?" 


Obviously the invitation given to the Protocol Division was meant to be ‘lost’ ! 



At the end of the function, Mrs. B made it a point to thank Wali Khan for accepting her invitation when Bhutto was within hearing range thus taking full responsibility for the invitation. 


She had also told SJ "Stanley, thank you for arranging Wali Khan’s participation".




The shrewd Bhutto guessing what had transpired had commented "Madam, your man in Islamabad is an efficient man" followed by a wink to SJ – his way of saying "no offence taken". 


No heads rolled at the Pakistan Foreign Ministry or in the Protocol Division. 



Relations remained ever so cordial and the matter put to rest by all concerned.




Little wonder that Mrs. B returned the gift of mangoes from Ge. Zia with a curt message. 




It was he who overthrew Bhutto in 1977 in a coup d’état and sent him to the gallows in 1979. 



When Mrs. B returned Gen. Zia’s consignment of mangoes, she was sending a clear and distinct message expressing Sri Lanka’s stand on a particular issue.




One wonders as to what message was being transmitted when our Foreign Ministry decided to reject Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s gift to our President on ‘technical grounds’ and permit customs officials to consume it. 



Had the concern been purely a ‘quarantine’ issue, friendly relations, good diplomacy and common sense demands that the mangoes be accepted graciously, a thank you note sent and the consignment placed in quarantine. 



Literally hundreds of Indian and Pakistani mangoes, apples and other fruits are brought into the country daily by our workers returning from the Middle East with no quarantine certificates or fear of insects.




Would a gift consignment of Californian peaches from President Obama or Granny Smith apples from Prime Minister Cameron have been returned for ‘technical reasons’ or handled differently by our Foreign Ministry?.




Pakistan remained steadfast in their unstinted support to Sri Lanka during its 30 years long conflict with LTTE terrorism, a hallmark of the friendship consolidated by Mrs. B and Bhutto as evidenced in the two anecdotes and further developed by subsequent leaders. 



Let that friendship not be squandered by the current handlers of our Foreign Affairs.





http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=129666

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