Tariq Abid (UWC-AC ’11-’13)
There are few international sporting events that create as much hype as that created by Pakistan versus India cricket matches. Well, at least for the almost billion people living in the subcontinent.
Starting from Christmas this year, the national rivalry shall materialize in the form of 20-over and 50-over matches (cricketing jargon) played in India. The significance to this is not just the thrilling sports that this event promises, but also its political significance.
Pakistan and India haven’t played cricket in the subcontinent ever since the Mumbai attacks in 2008. These attacks also halted the ongoing peace process between the two nuclear-armed countries that have gone to war multiple times. The cricket series, which many believe to have been put together by political manoeuvring, can be seen as a mirroring of recent developments in bilateral Pakistan-India relations, which include a liberalization of the trade and travel regimes existent until recently.
Even though, both the occurrence of the cricket and the recently made agreements are a significant break from the belligerence (in mutual relations) of the immediate past. However, these by themselves are not extremely significant developments: the cricket series lacks any ‘test’ matches, which are considered to be the core format in cricket and there is no indication of a similar series being played in Pakistan in the future; similarly the issues of fundamental divide (such as territorial and cross-border security related issues) as opposed to the less contentious one (like visa regimes) continue to threaten the relationship, as before. Moreover, there is still no guarantee (beyond vague verbal assertions) that another event like the Mumbai attacks would not demolish the whole process and push the countries to the brink of war, again.
The crux of these developments is the hope that these would have re-started a process ultimately in which the fundamental issues of conflict would come to be deliberated and resolved. It seems, however, if we aren’t lucky that the process might be strangled by the disagreement on how to deal with culprits of the Mumbai attacks and their ideological cohorts; with India relentlessly demanding punishment of some identified individuals while Pakistan demanding more evidence for trial.
Time will tell how this unfolds. For now, however, both sides will enjoy a riveting contest between arguably the world bitterest cricketing rivals.