There’s no question but that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did refer to his Indian counterpart, idiomatically, as a “dehati aurat” (peasant woman) for complaining about Pakistan-supported terrorism to the US president. In the Punjabi context, if there are differences to be sorted out you handle it directly, man-to-man, not go running off, crying to a third party for justice. This is straight forward stuff that Narendra Modi picked up on. There are two aspects to this episode.
The first question is did Sharif thus describe MMS or not? Hamid Mir of Pak’s Geo TV and Barkha Dutt of NDTV breakfasted with Sharif when this little event happened. It is always fun for reporters enjoying the license to unconditionally quote politicians to alight on the most risque, sensational, or controversial phrase or thought. This was the intent no doubt for Mir to reproduce it on twitter — which is how it was revealed to the world and was used by Modi as a rhetorical hook to hang Manmohan on. Perfectly legitimate. With the Indian media — in the wake of the Modi speech in Delhi to a vast and enthusiastic audience in hundreds of thousands — pouncing on it, the desi reporter Dutt, suddenly realized she was in a soup. Why? Because Modi had also added that the Indian journalist hearing this insult should have, at a minimum, walked out which, of course, Dutt didn’t do. Now, what would any person who was in Dutt’s position do, if he/she discovered that her behaviour was attacked by Modi who might be next PM? You would quickly try and retrieve the situation for yourself by tweeting that, in fact, the Pak PM made no such offending remark in the first place, thereby shifting the onus on to the Pakistani reporter to back her and defuse the situation, or stick to his original tweet and be held responsible for creating a diplomatic-cum-political ruckus. Which’s exactly what the quick-thinking Barkha — who has been in other troubles (recall Radiia tapes?), did.
The more significant thing is the Indian government’s penchant during Manmohan’s tenure to run to Washington every time there’s a hint of trouble with Islamabad, asking Uncle Sam to discipline the unruly Pakistanis for creating some terrorist disturbance or the other in Kashmir. For God’s sake, how can you then turn around and ask the same US govt to not interfere in India’s internal or bilateral matters (with Pakistan)? This is the point behind Modi’s jibe that Manmohan entirely deserves Sharif’s insults because he puts up so effortlessly with lots worse from the Gandhis — mother and son every day of his stay at 7, Race Course Road. But that’s common knowledge.