But when Eenam Gambhir, first secretary at the Permanent Mission of India in New York, took the floor to exercise India’s Right to Reply following a combative speech by Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif accusing India of human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir, she won only praise back home.
Relatively low-profile till now, a random Google search for Gambhir’s name at present throws up a dozen links—almost all with a complementary headline for the young diplomat.
Gambhir’s crisp speech—carefully drafted and vetted by senior Indian diplomats —rebutted Sharif point by point though she took much less than her allotted seven minutes.
According to a colleague in New Delhi: “The way the message is delivered is as important as the content of the speech."
And that is something that Gambhir won kudos for. There were no rhetorical flourishes, the tone was matter of fact and to the point. But the imagery left no one in doubt of the complete contrast presented by the two subcontinental rivals.
A case in point, Gambhir’s description of contemporary Pakistan as,“The land of Taxila, one of the greatest learning centres of ancient times, is now host to the Ivy League of terrorism.
“It attracts aspirants and apprentices from all over the world.
“The effect of its toxic curriculum are felt across the globe."
The formulation won applause from Gambhir’s peers in New Delhi as well as others.
“That was brilliant work by Team New York. It would have to have struck a chord immediately among Western diplomats if not a global audience," said a foreign ministry official in New Delhi.
“If there is one hashtag we should trend it is #EenamGambhir for such a fab rebuttal to Sharif at @UN on behalf of #India go for it folks!" said a tweet by Shivnath Thukral, managing director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, India chapter.
Another tweet by Shashank Singh said : “What a speech by Eenam Gambhir, had tears in my eyes for the sorry state of Pakistan."
A “Delhite" is how Gambhir describes herself on her short profile on Twitter.
A Mathematics graduate from Delhi University’s Hindu College, Gambhir joined the Indian Foreign Service in 2005. Her colleagues describe her as sharp and hardworking.
Her first posting was Madrid where she picked up proficiency in her chosen foreign language—Spanish.
After a posting in the Indian mission in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Gambhir returned home to be assigned to the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk, considered one of the key “hot potato" divisions in the Indian foreign ministry.
After a year’s sabbatical in Geneva, Gambhir was assigned to the Permanent Mission of India in New York where she looks after disarmament, international security, UN Security Council reform and counter-terrorism issues.
Given the subjects she handles at the Indian mission, it was not a major surprise that India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, picked her to demolish the arguments put forth by Sharif.
When Gambhir described Pakistan as “a country with a democracy deficit....(which) practices terrorism on its own people..suppresses minorities and women and denies basic human rights including through draconian laws " in her speech, the apparent contrast with India could not have been starker.
Another section of her speech that attracted attention and applause at home was the characterisation of Pakistan as a “terrorist state, which channelizes billions of dollars, much of it diverted from international aid, to training, financing and supporting terrorist groups as militant proxies against it neighbours."
“The choice to field Gambhir was certainly not by chance. It was certainly a matter of choice. And it worked well," a senior Indian foreign ministry official who didn’t want to be named said.