For a long time now newspapers in our country and elsewhere have carried the good things said by President Zia in Delhi and Washington on Indo-Pakistan. relations. To let you into a diplomatic secret, it all began at Punjab Agricultural University.
In China, an international thaw starts with the game of ping pong. In India we begin it with agriculture. This is one industry which has no secrets and no patents. With its slogan of more food for more people, it is miles away from any shadow of mischief.
Comparing notes on farming is like placing your hand on the shoulder of a co-ed. If you click- well, you click. If you don’t, there is no loss of face. It was only the shoulder you touched, or wanted to.
One fine morning, a year or so ago, Punjab Agricultural University was informed that Pakistan’s Minister for Agriculture, accompanied by his wife, would be spending a few hours on the campus at Ludhiana. He was on his way back from Delhi to Islamabad via Wagah after attending an international conference on food.
When we saw the Minister we were quite impressed. Slick and urbane, he was not made quite in the image of a Minister. Somebody recalled that in Pakistan some Ministers had been drawn from the defence forces. This one was a naval officer holding the job of a Minister.
In no time at all he put us at our ease. “As I was telling the Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, last evening,” he said, “no visit of a Minister for Agriculture to India is complete without seeing Punjab Agricultural University”.
The experts joyfully answered all his questions and showed him everything he wanted to see. Somewhere on the way all of us forgot our English and slipped into Punjabi.
It was now time for lunch and we reminded the Minister about it.
“Shall we wait a moment?” he suggested looking at his watch. “My wife said she would be here about this time.”
A car halted outside the guest house and a pretty woman in a pink gharara suit emerged from it. She was accompanied by another pretty woman in a salwar kameez, with a Sikh gentleman in tow.
“There she is” said the Minister. “She had gone to see her saheli near here,” he explained, pointing to the woman in salwar kameez. “They were class-mates in a college in Delhi.” He bowed to the saheli and shook hands with the husband.
“Class –mates in Delhi?” asked someone thoughtfully. “That means her pekas are in India”.
“Yes, she belonged to India once upon a time,” agreed the Minister.
“In that case we must give her a present on her visit to her parental home.” Some more packets of the precious seed were brought and handed over to the Minister for research in Pakistan.