- Mango is the national fruit of India as well as Pakistan
- Both countries have also used mango diplomacy, often in the form of gifts to their leaders
- The two countries compete for the export market of the world
June 12, 2017: Despite political upheaval between the two countries, India and Pakistan love their mangoes. The mangoes from these two nations are popular and thus in demand all over the world. In the early start of the year (February-March) and monsoons, the mangoes are popular and an essential fruit in every home. But it is really about Mango diplomacy.
India grows 1,200 varieties of mangoes while Pakistan grows one-third of that. India is the world’s largest mango producer (13 million tons a year) while Pakistan stands at 5th spot (1.6 million tons).
Historically, the fruit has been given prime importance even by the ‘outsiders’. The plantation of mangoes was encouraged by the Mughals who also used the fruit as a gift to the nobles of the court.
Mangoes were also being exported out of the country by air as well as sea. Bombay was sending crates of mangoes as a gift to Sweden and Holland in an effort to develop mango markets.
As early as 1935, crates of mangoes (along with pearls and nuts) were part of consignments in JRD Tata’s air cargo after the launch of Tata Aviation. The Alfonso mango was selected as the ideal gift by the government to be sent to London by shipment for the crowning of George VI. This may have led to a global demand for mangoes.
The fruit has also carried a diplomatic tradition. It was particularly a favorite for Dr. Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru may have been biased to guavas personally (hailing from Allahabad) but he understood the diplomatic importance of mangoes. Any visit by a foreign leader to India was greeted by gifting mangoes. Nehru also took mangoes when it was his turn to make the visit abroad. In some instances (when it must not have been mango season) Nehru has carried mango saplings to be gifted abroad.
Particularly different is how mangoes are to be eaten. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev adopted the Indian method of squeezing and then sucking on the fruit. Unlike most leaders who would use spoon and fork, Nikita loved the Indian way.
It has become a cross-border gift for India and Pakistan since the 1980s when Zia ul-Haq exchanged crates of mangoes with the former Indian Prime Minster Indira Gandhi.
On Eid 2015, PM Nawaz Sharif sent 10 kgs of mangoes to Indian PM Narendra Modi. Further, 15 kgs to President Pranab Mukherjee and 10 kgs each to former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Atal Behari Vajpayee was also sent.
It seems Pakistan wants to take its mango diplomacy with India seriously irrespective of the insecurity between the two nations. Every year, India receives Mangoes from Pakistani leaders, but India does not always respond by an exchange.
With security tensions mounting in South Asia, some suggest returning to Mango diplomacy (especially with China) may benefit India.
– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394