Originally Published 2004-02-20 10:02:43 Published on Feb 20, 2004
For the love of the game...
Much is being debated about the forthcoming visit of the Indian cricket team to Pakistan. Questions are being raised about the security of Ganguly and his men in the country which has been the hub of anti-India terrorist activities for long and whose President himself barely survived two assassination attempts made by jihadi groups a few months ago. <br /> <br /> There are crucial reasons why it is important that the Indian team visit Pakistan in the present circumstances. Firstly, it is after a really long time that the peace process between the two countries is moving on desired lines and a new innings of cricket diplomacy could help in people to people contacts which is essential towards any conflict resolution between the two states where hostility apart from being bred by politics is also entrenched in the public mind. Since cricket is the most popular game in the subcontinent and has the capacity to arouse passions on both sides, it is all the more important that the tour is not called off as that would act as a dampener in the present circumstances. We have a precedent before us when cricket diplomacy helped reduce tensions between the two arch rivals way back in 1987 when the Reliance Cup match between India and Pakistan was watched by General Zia, an ardent cricket fan. General Zia's very private visit to watch the match ended in informal interactions with some prominent Indians of the government of Rajasthan. Gifts were exchanged and when he returned home tensions had died down at the border. Consider also the Christmas truce during the First World War. While the guns fells silent, a football match took place on the No Man's Land between the English Bedfordshire regiment and the German troops. <br /> <br /> The fears on the security front are very genuine but one must remember that by calling off the visit one would be only strengthening the hands of the terrorists. Security arrangements have been scrutinised by the three-member team from India sent by the BCCI who have expressed their satisfaction. Besides, a successful tour will also provide an opportunity for the Pakistani Government to wage a successful war against terror, which will in turn enhance their credibility in the eyes of the international community. Even key Islamic hardline parties including the Jamaat-e Islami have assured a trouble free tour. <br /> <br /> There are two possible scenarios that may result from India's cricket visit to Pakistan:-</font> </p> <ul type="a"> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">The Indian team goes and nothing untoward happens - the series will be hailed a success and the peace process will carry on - bolstered by the fact that both India and Pakistan managed to behave like mature countries, especially when it came to cricket, a sport that undoubtedly has captivated the national psyche of people on both sides of the border. It would be seen as a reflection of the maturity of the people of India and Pakistan. It would also show that there is a genuine feeling in the hearts of the people towards bringing a 'normalisation' in Indo-Pakistan relations. This would be an indication that the peace process has moved beyond the strategic interests and compulsions of the leaders and politicos in either country. <br /> </font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Our team goes and the dream shatters - Even if there is an attempt on the lives of any of the players, it could rekindle the years of animosity that both Indians and Pakistanis have been brought up with and worse, derail the peace process. It seems like a price too costly to pay. Are India and Pakistan ready to put our people to the test yet? Is the time ever going to be 'just right' for Indians to play cricket in Pakistan, given our fractious history? Considering the roller coaster ride India and Pakistan have been thrust onto, the time will never be perfect and this is as good a time as any. It is risky, not least for our cricket players. But this might be the one way to test whether the present peace process has its guardians among the people. If we together cannot let cricket become the kernel of increased contact, the peace process itself then cannot last beyond the machinations of our politicians.</font> </div> </li> </ul> <p align="justify" class="greytext1"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">The two assassination attempts on General Musharraf also should not deter the Indians from going across the border. It only goes to prove that terrorism is beyond Pakistan's control now and security threats could act as a spoilsport anywhere in the world. Terrorism has an international character now and the jihadis are no longer limited in their geographical influence. They are capable of carrying out attacks anywhere. For that matter India is as unsafe as Pakistan as a number of terrorist attacks have taken place here. Moreover Indian leaders have been vulnerable to such assassination attacks from terrorists since long now and in spite of the tight security around him, ex Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi lost his life in a terrorist attack that too from a group not even based in India. <br /> <br /> To call off the tour on the basis of security concerns will be a dampening step at this point of time when the peace process and people to people contacts is moving in a desired direction. Those who believe that cricket has a larger than life image in the subcontinent should be all the more willing to concede that cricket diplomacy could achieve more than even the normal diplomatic channels. And for those who believe it is just a game and should not be intermingled with politics, there is all the need to advocate that the tour is not disturbed for cricket lovers across the borders if only for the love of the game&#8230; <br /> <br /> </font> <font size="2" class="greytext1"> <em>Email ID : <br /> Swati Parashar ---&gt; [email protected] <br /> Devika Sharma ---&gt; [email protected]</em> <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Observer Research Foundation.</em>
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