The temperature of relations between Pakistan and India has often been measured by events on the cricket field. Cricket diplomacy has been used before and it seems that it is now at play again. The gentle half-volley that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has lobbed towards the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) offers a resumption in cricketing ties that had remained suspended ever since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The last time the two nations played each other in a bilateral series was in 2007, when Pakistan toured India. The offer from the BCCI is for a short tour at the end of the year comprising three One-Day Internationals and two Twenty20 contests. The swift acceptance of the tour by the PCB is welcome. The development follows on the heels of intense efforts made by the two boards to resume relations on the pitch.
This development marks a softening in relations between the two countries on the whole. Things have quite obviously cooled down on the political front. This is a good omen for all. Cricket can pave the way for greater harmony on many other matters and for a sense of normalcy as far as relations in the region go. The significance of the BCCI offer then reaches out far beyond the game of cricket itself.
There is nothing that generates quite as much sporting excitement as a cricket contest between Pakistan and India. This tour will help build a sense of trust between the two nations that we so badly need even though, ironically enough, it will come in an intensely competitive environment with the two teams undoubtedly battling it out fiercely, but even as they do so, they will be creating links that may turn out to be vital to the future of their countries. This is an important service and one that will stand us in very good stead for the future given the need to develop warmer bilateral ties with India after a stand-off that has already lasted far too long and set both countries back quite a long way in terms of solving mutual problems.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2012.
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