Indo-Pak history: Cricket not always a winner for peace
A high-level India-Pakistan meeting with cricket as the primary context has a saving grace, reckons many — the expectations that ride high on formal summit-level meetings can be brought down, and leaders get an informal environment to understand each other’s mind. Jayanth Jacob reports. India, Pak home secys meetdelhi Updated: Mar 28, 2011 13:53 IST
Cricket can bond both India and Pakistan together. But, going by the past, using cricket diplomacy to cement the ties between the two countries has not gone too far.
But a high-level India-Pakistan meeting with cricket as the primary context has a saving grace, reckons many — the expectations that ride high on formal summit-level meetings can be brought down, and leaders get an informal environment to understand each other’s mind.
So, will Manmohan Singh become luckier in his second stint with cricket diplomacy?
Also, for the first time, a democratically elected prime minister from Pakistan is being part of the cricket diplomacy, though many in the Indian system doubt the power of the present-day government in Islamabad to push ahead the dialogue process with India."I think, Manmohan Singh is very serious and has the intentions to take the peace process forward. The meet coincides with the resumption of the dialogue process," says former foreign secretary Salman Haidar, who helped in the dialogue process between the two countries that had been abandoned after the 26/11 attack.
Though there is always an opportunity to begin afresh, the cricket diplomacy of the past has not been so inspiring.
When he had come to Jaipur in February 1987 to watch the second day’s proceedings of an India-Pakistan test match, President Zia-ul-Haq had drummed up the visit as part of his "cricket initiative"and his trip came after many years of suspended cricketing ties.
But by 1989, things had gone terribly wrong with Kashmir situation going from bad to worse.
In March 2004, when India toured Pakistan, ties were on an upswing.
In January that year, President Musharraf reassured the then PM Vajpayee that Pakistan will not permit any territory under it's control to be used for terrorism in any manner against India, laying the ground for composite dialogue.
Both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi watched a match in Karachi and then national security advisor Brajesh Mishra was seen during a match in Lahore.
In 2005, Manmohan Singh invited Musharraf to watch an India-Pakistan one-day match in New Delhi, which again created the right atmospherics and statements, including the resolve the terrorism should not have hamper the peace process.
What about this time?
"If some thing goes wrong, the peace process can go wrong, too. It doesn't mean India and Pakistan shouldn’t engage each other," adds Salman Haidar.