I don’t know the status of monsoon in Pakistan but it sure did come a huge welcome shower across the border on Monday afternoon, as the BCCI announced revival of Indo-Pak cricket ties.
Pakistan is set to come here and play three ODIs at Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi, and two T20 games in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Good that the BCCI has slotted no game slotted in Mumbai; otherwise who knows what people there would have done.
Also interesting is the fact Chennai, the city of BCCI president N. Srinivasan, has got a game. As many people are pointing out, the 2008 terror attacks didn’t take place there.
So, what’s the game behind BCCI’s game, because this cannot be a decision taken by the cricket board chaps in isolation? Does the Indian cricket board bat for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), or is it the government that is opening up its stance after talking tough in the foreign secretary-level dialogue earlier this month?
Otherwise, why else would Rajiv Shukla, a senior office-bearer of the BCCI and a Congress party leader, have made the curious statement about PCB pressing for revival of ties for some time now. I quote: “The PCB has been very persistent over the past few years on resuming cricketing ties with Pakistan and if you remember we have also played against Pakistan even after 1971 war and after 1999 Kargil war… we have played a series in Pakistan.”
On July 6, at the conclusion of the two-day talks with his Pakistan counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani, India’s foreign secretary Rajan Mathai had stressed that action against the masterminds of 26/11 attack on Mumbai would be the greatest “confidence building measure” by Pakistan.
“I emphasised that terrorism was the biggest threat to peace and security in the region and bringing the guilty to justice in the Mumbai terror attacks would be the biggest CBM (confidence building measure) of all,” Mathai had said at a media conference he addressed jointly with Jilani. “The arrest and ongoing interrogation of Abu Jundal has added urgency to the matter.”
Jilani had said in the same press conference that Pakistani state agencies were not involved in the Mumbai attacks, a point in complete contrast to Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s contention.
What, then, has changed in the nine odd days? Has Pakistan taken action against the masterminds of the 26/11 terror plots or those who handled them, allegedly from Pakistan?
Or had terrorism ceased to be the “biggest threat to peace and security in the region”, as Mathai had put it?
Or is that Pakistan has given truckloads of dossiers on Jundal, who India claims was among those handled Kasab and the gang from Karachi as they went about their mayhem in Mumbai?
I am not a spoilsport, and neither am I anti-cricket or oppose to games between India and Pakistan. But having snapped cricket ties with Pakistan after the 26/11 terror attacks, claiming that the neighbour raised, hosted and abetted the slaughterers, how can Chidambaram give the go-ahead for resuming ties on the cricket field?
“I have spoken to Chidambaram and he has said there is no objection on the part of the (home) ministry. The ministry of external affairs has also agreed on this tour,” Shukla said.
My question to both ministries: Why? How?
Reports in the media the same evening, though, said home ministry officials “appear to be not-so-enthusiastic about reviving cricketing ties with Pakistan“.
And then there is, of course, that mother of all inane contentions bandied around with grace — that sports and politics are separate issues that should not be mixed in a cocktail. It’s sold so often, and by so many, that we, as a nation, have nearly started believing the stock phrase was the seventh or eighth of the 10 Commandments, or some religious text like the Geeta (Imagine Krishna telling Arjuna: “Remember, never mix sports with politics. So what if the Kauravas took away your wife, your kingdom, and hurt your people? You should still play cricket, or archery, with them with a straight bat.” Anyone?)
If sports and politics do not go together, then, as a former senior colleague wrote on Facebook, terrorism and politics should also be kept separated. And if we start hosting Pakistan on cricket fields, if only to build mutual confidence, we might as well start discussing the Kashmir issue with the neighbour — to build up their confidence on us.
So how does Tendulkar playing or not playing those games (that is anyway the biggest question, and sometimes the only question, confronting the country before any series), or India winning or not winning the cricket matches reflect on the Indian government and people’s confidence on the Pak establishment?
Little wonder, we are left with the confidence-building claptrap and sport for sport’s sake baloney.
But as I wrote in a previous article on this forum (Read: Dont be Dumb, Sports and Politics Go Hand in Hand), sports and politics are Siamese twins in tense and strife-torn times. Sport is part of diplomacy (reason why India snapped cricket ties with Pakistan in the first place after November 11, 2008), political threat (reason why everyone boycotted South Africa during the Apartheid regime), human rights (reason many are criticising London for keeping Dow Jones, mother company of Union Carbide of Bhopal gas leak disgrace) and global hegemony (recall mass boycott of Moscow and Los Angeles Olympics).
The BCCI can claim that in an ideal world both should not be mixed, and I am sure most people but the Taliban would agree, but the BCCI should remember this is not an ideal world. And neither are these ideal times, certainly not for resuming bilateral cricket ties with Pakistan unless they come out clean in the Mumbai mayhem, as the government led by Shukla and Sharad Pawar’s parties has insisted on several occasions.
The likes of Shukla and BCCI should either urge the government to withdraw or scale down its demands made of Pakistan, or accept they are residents of a John Lennon-esque Imaginary world, perennially under the influence.