Perhaps there is one solid reason why India and Pakistan should not become bosom buddies after all. There are serious worries among India-Pakistan analysts that if things get too chummy between the two nations, subcontinental cricket may end up in an even more comatose state than it already is. And we have reasons to worry on this matter. Earlier this week, officials from India’s Border Security Force (BSF) met their counterparts from the Pakistan Rangers on the Pakistani side of the border. After discussing the issue of joint patrolling to stop the smuggling of drugs and the matter of exchanging prisoners, the two sides reportedly agreed to “tone down” the drill that accompanies the ceremony of beating the retreat everyday. For those of you not acquainted with the decades-old tradition — possibly because you are not Punjabi — that is played out each day at the India-Pakistan road border at Wagah, the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers engage in an eyeball-to-eyeball, head-shaking, boot-thudding, legs-flying display of fiery nationalism. With India-Pakistan trying to go bhai-bhai, this asphalt-shattering custom will be wrapped up. Or that’s the general idea. It turns out that while the BSF jawans have toned things down, the Pakistan Rangers chaps are carrying on their show wrestling-style activities. In other words, there is asymmetrical border theatrics. Already, mutterings can be heard from the Indian side of the border that usually starts with, “But we agreed...”
Now this is going to be tricky, as applauding a Shahid Afridi boundary can, in certain circles, be interpreted as being anti-Indian. But do we really want the fun and fiery frolic at Wagah to be doused so that it resembles the border-bonhomie that is enacted on, say, the England-Scotland border? Sure, the Wagah version of ‘violent’ Kathakali stems from a subcontinental rivalry (read: one-upmanship) that we don’t want to perpetuate. But with tourists on both sides enjoying the proceedings, the original cause and the effect can be delinked. We still light diyas during Diwali even after we became familiar with electricity. People still collect ornamental knives and swords after the discovery of the AK-47. So why can’t the Wagah blunderbuss? It’s true that India and Pakistan can be the best of friends, but the show must go on. And we certainly want to hammer Pakistan in cricket — even if the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani President meet everyday for the friendliest round of chess.