Asia

Banyan

India-Pakistan relations

A sporting chance

Mar 30th 2011, 20:22 by A.R. | MOHALI

JUDGE the importance of the game by the cast of celebrities who attended it. When India played Pakistan in a highly-charged semi-final of the cricket world cup on March 30th, the roaring, seething, smiling crowd in Mohali included a number of stars. Sonia Gandhi, who heads the ruling Congress party in India, sat in the stands with her son, Rahul Gandhi, who is widely tipped to be India’s next prime minister. Elsewhere, the current prime minister, Manmohan Singh, sat with his counterpart, Yusuf Raza Gilani, from Pakistan, amid speculation that “cricket diplomacy” might ease longstanding tensions between the neighbours.

Messrs Singh and Gilani earned noisy cheers as they strolled together on the grass shortly before the first ball was bowled. A host of tycoons, Bollywood stars and other notables showed up too. Match tickets had traded on the street in Mohali at 20 times their face value, or more. The local airport was jam-packed with billionaires' private jets. Anti-aircraft missiles (among other security measures) were said to be deployed on the day, to deter any flying terrorists tempted by such a juicy target.

The day passed peacefully in the end—aside from the deafening roar of Bollywood songs and screaming cheers as wickets fell—and many of the tens of thousands of whooping fans dared to believe they were part of something bigger. But the match's significance depends mostly on any improved understanding between the two prime ministers. In the long run, a game of cricket alone is unlikely to profoundly alter the prospects of India and Pakistan getting past their decades of bloody difficulties and establishing friendly ties. Still, the generally good mood of the cricket fans is a firm reminder that more “people-to-people” contacts, which are woefully rare, would surely be helpful.

In one part of the stadium, two young Indian fans, howling in delight and bedecked in face-paint, held up a home-made placard declaring, “Our aim is to bring peace, so please co-operate”. Nearby another Indian fan swore that the better the ties off the field, the fiercer the conflict might be on the pitch. A few seats away, a family of nine Pakistani fans, a contingent from Karachi, gushed over the warm Indian welcome they had received since crossing the border. “Let us hope, this should be the start of something” enthused one, referring to expectations that international relations might now warm.

The cricket has been a success too. Both teams have shown sparkling form in the cup. The subcontinent is always bewitched by the game, but the rare prospect of the sides meeting on Indian soil near the climax of cricket's main tournament left millions frazzled with excitement. Much of India and Pakistan was enthralled; hundreds of millions of people had gathered around TV screens in homes, cafes, offices and bars to watch the semi-final, which will probably prove to be a bigger event than the final.

In the event, India dominated. Sachin Tendulkar, who is arguably the best batsman in history, opened for India. His strength, and good fortune, helped his side to post a score that Pakistan never looked close to reaching. But the Pakistani players go home proud of a decent achievement. After miserable years in which the team has played poorly and in which players were caught rigging matches, this performance is a big improvement. It may restore a measure of pride in a country badly battered by terrorism, natural calamities and political instability in recent years. For the victorious Indians, now facing a final against Sri Lanka on April 2nd, the sense of triumph is immense. The streets of Mohali were jammed for hours as locals celebrated.

The greater good fortune may be in the timing of this cordial encounter. In the same week the two countries' highest-ranking home-affairs officials agreed, at last, to a measure of co-operation in investigating the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which some 170 people were killed at the city's train station, cafes and Taj hotel. The attackers came from Pakistan, and may have had some help from Pakistani military intelligence. Ill-feeling naturally persisted in the years after the attacks—a diplomatic process known as "the composite dialogue" was scrapped. But the mood now seems to be improving sharply.

The foreign ministers of the two countries are due to meet within the next three months, amid broad efforts to improve ties. Mr Singh, who craves better relations with Pakistan (home to his own birthplace) would love to make progress before leaving office, probably in 2014. Substantial progress will take a great deal more work yet, and relies, among other things, on the willingness of Pakistan’s army to reach out for talks across the border—something which it has usually resisted in the past. But the game in Mohali at least gives a slim excuse to hope.

(Photo credit: AFP)

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1-20 of 66
Robert North wrote:
Mar 30th 2011 9:04 GMT

I doubt politics and sport are all that intertwined practically. To note is that of the semifinal teams to appear three are from the subcontinent. Clearly pitch was a vital factor in this 'competition'.

Mar 30th 2011 9:23 GMT

Solution for India Pakistan peace is very simple - a legitimate solution is for Pak to return the illegally occupied Kashmir to India. They need to stop all the military and political support to the terrorists. If after that, there is a sound case for India to allow a plebscite in Kashmir, we are open to consider that. Pls however note that Kashmir legally belongs to India and any plebscite would be an entirely Indian prerogative. India in return would provide economic support and help Pakistan build back its lost democratic institutions.

This is however an ideal solution. A more pragmatic solutiuon would be to accept the current line of control as a permanent border and Pakistan ledge never to assert any right over Kashmir territory and cease their military and political support to the terrorists.

These cricket matches and on and off diplomacy is not going to do anything. This is just high adrenaline entertainment arising from every cricket game being considered a pseudo war - for example, for every Indian and Pakistani, winning this game was more important than winning the world cup - whether India win or loose the final against Sri Lank is going to be more or less a irrlevant fact for Indian masses.

khichuri wrote:
Mar 30th 2011 9:40 GMT

Hey @ Robert North

Complaining about pitch already? Sour grapes, huh? It hurts, doesn't it?! Which country are you from mate, England or Australia? How would you have liked the pitch to be for Australia to win? For this World Cup to be a COMPETITION without those wonderful quotes around that term! Hint: Ah...how was the umpiring?!

Mar 30th 2011 9:48 GMT

Khichuri.. i was talking to a brit yesterday and he says 'england havent been home for more than 5 months.. they have been touring. so they were destined to loose' good part is he didnt mention the usual excuses like upset tummy, heat, pitch, umpiring etc etc etc..

manbearpiggy wrote:
Mar 30th 2011 10:21 GMT

@Robert North
No host country has ever won a cricket world cup. Yet. So your comment about the pitch is probably just sour grapes.

Wasn't pitch a vital factor when SA beat India or New Zealand thrashed Pakistan in this 'competition'?

kommonsenses wrote:
Mar 30th 2011 10:24 GMT

win or lose, let mr. manmohan singh and mr. yusuf raza gilani to find ways working things out, than slugging it out.

Fabio C wrote:
Mar 30th 2011 11:04 GMT

Amazing...what is cricket?

Robert North wrote:
Mar 30th 2011 11:54 GMT

@khichuri; careful mate, were talking about my team here, there has to be a logical explanation for the humiliation..
@manbear: 1996?

manbearpiggy wrote:
Mar 31st 2011 12:45 GMT

@Fabio C:
"Amazing...what is cricket?"
Just a little sport watched by more people than the NBA, NFL and NHL combined?
Just a third-world colonial-hungover pastime whose club league rakes in more money than the EPL?
You should get out more.

manbearpiggy wrote:
Mar 31st 2011 1:03 GMT

@Robert North:
"@manbear: 1996?"
The 96 SL-Aus final was in Lahore. Unless you think the subcontinental nations are interchangeable, the host country didn't win. So I'm still correct when I said the host has not won a World Cup yet, aren't I?

Fabio C wrote:
Mar 31st 2011 1:41 GMT

@piggy, NBA, NFL and NHL are played mainly in the US and Canada only, so it has a very small following if you compare to India and Pakistan and Bangladesh combined, especially if you consider that the sports market in developed western countries is far more diversified, and so divided, then the subcontinent.

Do Indians and Pakistanis and Bangladeshis swim? Do they play volleyball? Do they play football (soccer if you prefer)? Do they play basketball? Do they play hockey? Do they play rugby?

EPL? What is the EPL? Does the cricket so called world cup turns out more money than UEFA or FIFA, maybe even CONCAF (Google that) and maybe even CBF, Google that one too? I do understand that cricket is very important to Asian people and I respect that, but if you put it globally is clearly over-rated. Moreover, to use sports as politics is typical of third world countries where population control is not in fashion.

You should open up your mind and update yourself.

indica wrote:
Mar 31st 2011 2:01 GMT

As most will agree, cricket is a demanding and exciting game, marginally more complex than other team sports - mind games and players' temperament etcetera.

There is a Cup where both India and Pakistan can win and share the spoils equally - PEACE CUP.

Despite how much India and Indians, from Punjab and Haryana in particular, have suffered at the hands of Pakistanis, ordinary Indian families in and around Mohali had welcomed more than 5,000 Pakistan supporters, some staying with them in their homes.

Peace is the normal condition of humans - the correct and stable default platform!!

Pakistan should give that a try.

manbearpiggy wrote:
Mar 31st 2011 2:09 GMT

Fabio C
You should REALLY get out more if you're posting in a British publication's website with questions like what is EPL.
Surely there is an English-themed pub or two in your American neck of the woods?
And assume your own risk if you tell an Indian or Pakistani (or an Australian for that matter) that they don't play hockey!

You say "I do understand that cricket is very important to Asian people and I respect that, but if you put it globally is clearly over-rated"

You surely don't respect that and barely understand that. While we are googling google "Ashes". And who are these "Asian people" I keep hearing about?

Oh, and about hockey, in non-temperate climes your version is called Ice Hockey. How's that for putting it globally?

Mar 31st 2011 2:23 GMT

@ manbearpiggy

"You should REALLY get out more if you're posting in a British publication's website with questions like what is EPL."

A minor correction. EPL is now called BPL or Barclay's Premier League ;-)

Looks like everything is up for sale in Queen's land :-) Bless Lady M for that!

Mar 31st 2011 2:34 GMT

Excellent article. Great event. Awesome match.

This Australian tips his hat to the class, talent and passion of the two behemoths who delighted the rest of the cricketing planet with a summit game that will remain seared in our collective memory.

Here is to hoping that something good and incomparably more important (peace and friendship) comes out of this encounter.

However, this "Sachin Tendulkar, who is arguably the best batsman in history" is in insult. Crikey.

Mate. Seriously.

How many times will we have to print those four digits (99.94, for the less cricket-literate amongst us) for nonsense such as the quoted sentence to vanish for ever? Gosh.

The Earth is round. Day follows night. Sir Don was the greatest batsman (and cricketer, full stop) of all times. It is painfully simple and has been proven ad nauseam.

Gee. Tendulkar is a cricket god. Yes. But Bradman he ain't.

manbearpiggy wrote:
Mar 31st 2011 2:50 GMT

@Fabio C
I wasn't familiar with CONCAF so I googled it. And yes, the IPL makes WAY more money than the UEFA, CONCAF or CFB. FIFA is at a whole different level altogether so let's not go there.
This article was about India-Pakistan diplomacy with cricket as background. If you don't have anything to comment on those two topics your intellect may be better utilized elsewhere.

Fabio C wrote:
Mar 31st 2011 2:59 GMT

@Piggy, you are absolutely off mark. How many times has India played FIFA World Cup? How many athletes is India, or Pakistan, or Bangladesh, (put them all together) sending to the XXX Olympiad? There is far more in the world then you can see from the Punjabi, don’t matter how many people live there and your politicians are taking good advantage from that.

Go do the homework I recommended you, maybe that will open your mind.

PS Ashes?! Do me a favor...

Fabio C wrote:
Mar 31st 2011 3:03 GMT

@Piggy, keep Googling babe, just keep googling. There is a big world out there.

The Mexican wrote:
Mar 31st 2011 3:05 GMT

how wrong was Locke to say that man are good! There is nothing but selfish, desire, ambition of power in man natural's instinct. Man trust anybody but nobody at the same time. Man would do anything necessary to gain political power, even give a hipocrite face to gain the other's trust!

manbearpiggy wrote:
Mar 31st 2011 3:10 GMT

@Fabia C
"How many times has India played FIFA World Cup?"

How many times has the USA played ICC World Cup?
Again - the article is about India-Pak and cricket. If you don't have anything to say about those topics you may please take your higher intelligence elsewhere.

1-20 of 66

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