Sports boycott is not a useful option against Pakistan
India should look at the options on the military, diplomatic and economic side of the ledger, and leave sports and arts alone.Updated: Feb 26, 2019 07:57 IST
After the February 14 terrorist attack in Pulwama, different methods of punishing Pakistan are being discussed. Among them is a cricket boycott of the country. The Indian team is scheduled to play a match against Pakistan in the ICC Cricket World Cup in June this year in England. The suggestions range from boycotting that match — even if that means forfeiting crucial points and damaging India’s chances in the marquee tournament — to using India’s heft in the International Cricket Council (ICC) to throw Pakistan out of the quadrennial event. Vinod Rai, the man at the helm of Indian cricket, has argued that Pakistan should be boycotted from global sporting events in the manner that apartheid-era South Africa once was.
The sports boycott against South African’s white ruling regime was indeed effective. The campaign against the country’s racial segregation policies received a massive boost when South Africa was expelled from the Olympics in 1964. By 1970, more than 20 governing bodies of different sports had boycotted South Africa. But this is the only example of a successful sports boycott. The US boycott of Moscow Olympics in 1980 failed to generate any sort of impact against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — the event which triggered the boycott. The Soviet Union and its allies retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. A number of Arab countries regularly boycott Israeli athletes but have failed to develop a global movement against Israeli “occupation” of Palestinian territory.
The sports boycott against South Africa worked because it achieved a global consensus. The US, Soviet Union, and Israel have always had allies to cushion them against such boycotts. It is also difficult to sustain a boycott on grounds of terrorism as opposed to racism. Terrorism has been used by almost every major power to achieve its political objectives. As a result, terrorism is unfortunately still not seen as an unalloyed evil like racism is. In such circumstances, it will be difficult to generate a consensus in the ICC as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) against Pakistan. Brinkmanship on India’s part may even lead to embarrassment. The non-issuance of visas to Pakistani shooters for the World Cup in Delhi has already led to India’s censure by the IOC. India may face a ban on hosting future global sporting events. If India wants to punish Pakistan, it should look at the options on the military, diplomatic and economic side of the ledger, and leave sports and arts alone.
First Published: Feb 26, 2019 07:46 IST