Diplomatic Sounds at the International Students House in Washington
By C. Naseer Ahmad
"Music is the international language of peace," said Secretary of State John Kerry welcoming young artists from Afghanistan, not long ago. And, diplomacy is perhaps the first thing graduate students get exposed to as they or anyone who enters the welcoming doorway of the International Students House (ISH) in Washington.
The Great Hall in the quaint Tudor style building donated by a philanthropist - home to residents, graduate students or post-graduate interns of many nations - was once again alive with cultural diplomacy on Friday September 9, 2016.
Mr Thomas O’Coin, Executive Director ISH co-sponsored the musical event organized by the Embassy Series. Ms Katherine Russell – appreciated for diligence and hard work – welcomed the guests. Past ISH President and current Board Member, Herb Schmitz and Mrs Betty Ann Tanner along with her husband, former Congressman John Tanner engaged the guests with their charm and interesting anecdotes.
Photographers have a unique skill of capturing images that communicate more than a thousand words. Morris Simon not only provided the pictures from this event but also commented: “Superb concert. Just a delightful performance with a variety of diverse pieces each more complex than the previous.”
To introduce the gifted young artist Laylo Rikhsieva, Gary Tischler wrote in the program notes: “The accent is on youth… The large early 20 th Century Hall … provides a splendid setting for the gifted and young (she was born in 1999) Rikhsieva … who won the Nikolai Rubenstein competition in France and was a runner up at Pietro Aregento will take the audience on a whirlwind journey.”
It was a stunning performance about which Ms Anne Howard-Tristani, a niece of the late US Vice-President Hubert Humphrey and Embassy Series Board member wrote: “Last Friday evening’s piano performance of Uzbek-born Laylo Rikhsieva, at the International Student House in Washington, DC, was absolutely outstanding and indeed amazing. At 17 years of age, Laylo played highly demanding classical pieces of Beethoven, Scriabin, Brahms, Liszt and Tchaikovsky, with complete command and perfection. She demonstrated the breath of her repertoire with a wonderful interpretation of Paganini Jazz Variations by Fazil Say and ended the concert with... the utmost warmth and sensitivity. Such talent at such a young age is indeed inspiring. We are grateful to Jerome Barry of The Embassy Series for bringing Laylo Rikhsieva to Washington, DC!”
Students of history also note some interesting facts about Uzbekistan for providing the venue for diplomacy and peace. About half a century ago, late Soviet Prime Minister Alexie Kosygin orchestrated the peace agreement between India and Pakistan in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. This agreement brought an end to armed conflict between the two countries that went to war in 1965 over Kashmir – a dispute lingering since 1947.
Tashkent also will be known for two other historical events. One of the cosigners of the peace accord, the late Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, tragically died in Tashkent due to an apparently heart attack and was brought back to India in a coffin.
Then Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, though perhaps not a cosigner, was apparently bitterly opposed to the peace accord. Upon his return to Pakistan he split with his boss the late President Ayub Khan and launched a political movement that culminated in the creation of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Bhutto’s fall was as fast as his rise and PPP is currently in a political abyss in Pakistan.