Let cricket diplomacy strengthen Pakistan-India relations

Published: May 13, 2015
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It is time that we take a break and enjoy Virat Kohli facing Saeed Ajmal, or Ahmed Shehzad coming face-to-face with Mohit Sharma.

Let’s face it; Indo-Pak cricket plays as strong a part in conflict resolution between the two countries as any other diplomatic solution.

The game has been used to strength bilateral ties for decades. And therefore, the recent announcement made by Pakistan Cricket Board’s chief, Shahryar Khan, about the resumption of the Indo-Pak cricket series, to be held in United Arab Emirates (UAE) in December later this year, is nothing less than a breath of fresh air for the two countries’ foreign-policy makers.

This LOC (love of cricket) – unlike its border counter-part – often brings both these nations together, no matter what the dispute may be.

A case in point is the 2011 World Cup semi-final in Mohali between India and Pakistan.

During the match, television cameras frequently zoomed in on then Indian and Pakistani prime ministers, Manmohan Singh and Yousaf Raza Gilani, seated together in the stands. The match was the first between these two countries after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. However, this match did not take place because of some political move or diplomatic framework.

It happened because of cricket; the sheer attraction that this game has was able to bring together two nations who were on the brink of a cold war.

Similarly, the last bilateral series between India and Pakistan was held in 2012-2013, when Pakistan toured India for three ODI and two T20 matches. While the series could not change much between the two nations, as India still blames Pakistan for not cooperating in the probe of 26/11 Mumbai attacks and Pakistan still has its complaints against India’s influence over Afghanistan, the fact that the series took place in the first place is reason enough to know that cricket can be an ice-breaker.

But, of course, it’s a two-way stream. Where cricket changes political outcomes, politics also inevitably affects the cricket phenomenon.

For example, Pakistani players participated in the first edition of the Indian Premier League, and many of them proved to be a huge success; however, post-26/11, Pakistani cricketers were debarred from the IPL. And this is not the first time that cricket ties were severed because of political relations. The two countries had dissolved their links earlier too, in wake of the Kargil War in 1999. These ties were later resumed in 2003-2004, when India toured Pakistan.

Often, issues due to political problems do not remain just to the grounds. In 2014, when Pakistan defeated India in the semi-final clash of the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, some of the students in India were charged off sedition for cheering the so called arch-rivals Pakistan.

These examples are aplenty. And the most recent entry to this list is the statement that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentarian, RK Singh, has made regarding the upcoming match series, as to how he believes this series should not happen as, according to him,

“A country which is giving shelters to the terrorists, who have attacked and had carried out bomb blasts against us, what is a point of playing cricket with that country, I don’t understand.”

Now whether his remarks would have a lasting impact on the cricketing ties being reestablished between the two countries or not, is yet to be seen.

But I have always believed in the power that cricket yields. It does take time, yes, but every time cricket resurrects itself from an embargo, it manages to consolidate for all the hostility at the borders or in political speeches. If the upcoming series takes place without any qualms, I believe cricket will once again help in stabilising the relations between the two countries.

Of course, cricket cannot solve major issues, like the territorial conundrum of Kashmir, or other chords of contention which have locked India and Pakistan in a never-ending wave of conflict. But it can bring both the parties to the table; it’s the perfect way for both the nations to initiate the peace dialogues. Plus, it gives a breather for fans from the political tirades of both the nations.

As this series is about to happen, the challenge is on the military and the politicians to ensure that a smooth, hate-free and war-free game between the two nations takes place. It is time that we take a break and enjoy Virat Kohli facing Saeed Ajmal, or Ahmed Shehzad coming face-to-face with Mohit Sharma. It is time to forget our woes and come together for a game that we all love, irrespective of which side of the border we are on.

Uzair Hasan Rizvi

Uzair Hasan Rizvi

A sports aficionado who is currently studying Masters in Journalism from AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, New Delhi, India. He tweets as @RizviUzair (twitter.com/RizviUzair)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • hp kumar

    Modi try not to be over smart…There is no point in engaging with pakistan..Recommend

  • Anon

    Spare us bro……we have a small heart unlike yours.Recommend

  • Queen

    The author’s sentiments regarding the resumption of Pakistan-India Cricket ties is appreciable but the author himself has pointed out in the bog that it has always been the Indian side which has severed cricket ties with Pakistan for political motives. The recent statements by RK Singh and by Indian Prime Minister Modi give an indication of India’s lack of seriousness to resume cricket series with Pakistan. So it will be better for the two countries to leave sports as it is and start focusing on resuming foreign-secretary level talks on core issues.Recommend

  • mimi sur

    CD can’t solve India’s issues with Pak like PoK and al terrorists in Pakistan. Mr.Modi should be pragmatic .Recommend

  • Indian

    PCB very much interested to resume cricket ties with India only to save them selves from bankruptcy.. not love for pak-ind cricketRecommend

  • Jor El

    Here is one point I agree wid u …Recommend

  • Jor El

    Core issues like what ???Recommend

  • ahmed,wani

    Seriously…dont want to watch a match with pakistanis with that player…so called shahid afridi and that sohail tanvir..Recommend

  • http://www.dunniyanews.com Mehwish Anjum

    Table talk is the only solution of every dispute…I think its a good step to bring the two nations together.Recommend

  • kartikey mishra

    yes good topic!! As we know that modi is already hinted that we will make relation better soon with pakistan so the cricket is just like a big tool for improving relation.
    after 1 month it will be cleared whether cricket happen or not . but my mind saying is that modi is keen to improve relation as he is going to finish 1 year as PM, as he is used to review his policy after 1 year so its a possibility for cricket.Recommend

  • umesh

    No political motives, just trying to preserve self respect.How do you ascertain that such events foster bilateral ties?.Pakistanis play and earn and finally blame Indian media as being parochial,Hurt Indian sentiments as the hockey players did recently.How do you stop Pakistani spectators from spying and overstaying and some missing altogether?.As an Indian , I condemn this invitation.Recommend

  • Cricket lover

    It has got nothing to do with Indian govt. or the pakistani govt taking the initiatives, as per ICC FTP, this was scheduled to happen, ofcourse the govt. in both the countries are only there to stop cricket between these two sides.
    Hopefully not in this case, so cricket once again is bringing both countries together and giving govt. a chance to gag about their approach in resuming and peace and friendshipRecommend

  • DareDevil

    why to promote terrorism by giving them money..better India must avoid any engagement with pakistan for next 100 yearsRecommend

  • Queen

    Core issues including Kashmir, Siachen, bilateral trade, issue of water distribution, and terrorism.Recommend

  • ask

    Cricket, Mango, Fishermen, Food, Calamities, Bollywood…all face saving, ice breaking devices for the overgrown school kids alternating between sulk & hug, and which populate this quaint continent.Recommend

  • Queen

    By all means continue preserving your ‘self respect’ but kindly let Mr Modi become aware of the sentiments of the Indian public before he makes invitations to Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jor El

    As far as India is concerned, Kashmir is not a core issue …Recommend

  • Queen

    India should not raise objections on the route of the Pakistan-China economic corridor project then.Recommend

  • Waqas

    So don’t watch, who is saying you to watch.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Don’t worry we willRecommend

  • http://www.theblazingreel.wordpress.com Khalid Rafi

    I don’t understand why Pakistan is so fixated on playing with India, if they r not interested then they can go to hell. India is not the only team in the world that plays cricket.Recommend

  • Jor El

    That is just speculation … work will not stop just coz india said so … but, as GoI believes that CPEC falls thru some territory thats legally Indian, they have to take a stand …Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    After the Ismaili killing incident, do you think cricket can be played in Pakistan?Recommend

  • Sane

    Very true. They play cricket with all ‘setting’.Recommend

  • Jasvinder Singh Marwaha

    My assessment is that Modi has divided Pakistan India relationships into 2 compartments- One being cricket, tv serials, Pakistani stars and artists coming to India. His view appears to be that the show can go on. But on serious political, boundary, co-operation and trade issues, he is not going to engage Pakistan- in fact he is going to ignore Pakistan irrespective of whatever he himself says.Recommend

  • Queen

    Good.Recommend

  • Ranjan

    yes please, we also don’t want India to play your team. Please make your fellow countrymen undertstand this.Recommend

  • Harsha Subbaiah

    The go to hell narrative is the reason why y’all don’t get to play. Well India is not the only country that plays but we the only country that gives you revenue more than your accounts could handle. So it’s not us it’s y’all who are begging to play against us. Get your facts right mate.Recommend

  • http://www.theblazingreel.wordpress.com Khalid Rafi

    Oh god, what ever will we do if we don’t play against India? I guess we’ll starve to death and our Cricket Board will be disbanded. Pakistan India haven’t played a bilateral series since 2007 and the last two have been played in India which means the majority of the revenue goes to the BCCI.Recommend

  • Jor El

    yes …Recommend

  • http://www.theblazingreel.wordpress.com Khalid Rafi

    Oh, what ever will happen if we don’t get to play against India? I guess we’ll starve to death. India and Pakistan have not played a bilateral series since 2007 and the last two have been played in India meaning most of the revenue goes to the BCCI. Nobody’s begging to play against self-centered, egotistical India, if BCCI is not interested they can happily declineRecommend

  • http://www.theblazingreel.wordpress.com Khalid Rafi

    Believe me If I had a giant megaphone that could simuntaniously make every person in Pakistan hear me, I wouldRecommend

  • sridhar

    Pakistanis need to come out of international isolation as no team, other than Zimbabwe (if you call it a team!) is willing to visit Pakistan.
    So, a cricket series with India makes a lot of “financial” and”diplomatic” sense. Is it good for India though?
    I am not so sure.
    Cricket became a victim of politics when Zia-ul-Haq flew into Jaipur stylishly to watch a cricket match. He was also stoking “Khalistan” separatism at the same time. He projected himself as a peaceful guy, hiding his true intentions.
    India has moved far ahead of the “cricket diplomacy” that it does not need cricket for diplomacy anymore. This certainly is the case after the Mumbai attacks which trace the culprits as coming from Pakistan.
    Also, the game has gotten very exciting with IPL. Gone are the days when one needed Indo-Pak cricket match to infuse some sense of excitement.Recommend

  • turtlehead

    who is asking* you to watch…Recommend

  • Harsha Subbaiah

    Either you need to get insight regarding crickets wellbeing right or sit back and relax and the game take its course. For a fact by next year someone or the other will play in IPL from Pakistan. Cricket will never be disbanded in your country.Recommend

  • sajjad

    We don’t need india for cricket Mr harsha.india is doing his best to create dangerous situation in pak so any international team doesn’t come to pak.india need to stay away from pak otherwise pak knows how to handle india who is nothing in front of pakistan. Pakustan zindabadRecommend

  • LS

    No need for peace and friendship. Cricket is just a ruse as it always has been for them to stab back… whether it was Zia, Mush or Nawaz, they are all the same. The thing that their retired generals love to recite “Muh me Ram Ram aur bagal mein churi” fits them perfectly. Recommend