India needs to play fair

If the Indians cannot guarantee our players’ safety outside the stadium, how can they ensure it inside?

Nadir Hassan February 01, 2013
The writer is a Karachi-based journalist who has previously worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

India really needs to take it down a notch. Since the fracas at the Line of Control (LoC), still shrouded in competing claims, Pakistani diplomats have been barred from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival, our hockey players felt so threatened by protests that they flew home and now our women’s cricket team is being forced to live at the stadium in which they will be playing their group matches.

For the first two cases, short-sighted Indian hawks who don’t hold much stock in cultural and sporting contact can make the exceedingly technical case that attending literary festivals and playing in an Indian hockey league is a privilege, not a right. The same cannot be said for our participation in the women’s World Cup. Our cricket team has earned its way into the tournament and deserves to be provided both with security and the same accommodations as the other teams.

The cricket team was originally meant to be stationed in Mumbai but the power, both at the street and governance level, of the Shiv Sena made that a non-starter. Our matches were then moved to Cuttack but the nearest hotel in Bhubaneshwar is an hour’s drive away. So our players will have to live at the clubhouse in the stadium for the entirety of the group stages. This also means that the entirety of India’s security strategy is dependent on us not making the final, which is to be played in Mumbai. If we do reach the final will India simply declare the city safe for us?

Try this for a thought experiment. What if we tell international teams that Pakistan is completely safe for visiting teams so long as they never leave the stadium? The suggestion would get us laughed out of the ICC and yet a different standard is being applied to India. In 1996, when Australia and the West Indies refused to play their World Cup matches in Sri Lanka out of fear, the hosts offered to airlift the players into and out of the stadium. That wasn’t enough to get them to play. We should take a similar stand. If the Indians cannot guarantee our players’ safety outside the stadium, how can they ensure it inside?

The refusal to let Pakistani diplomats attend the Jaipur Literature Festival, meanwhile, smacks of pettiness. This was a decision made not on the basis of security threats but simple petulance. Restricting the movement of diplomats only ensures that similar tit-for-tat actions will be taken in Pakistan.

Peace between the two countries has been incremental but steady over the last couple of years. The centrality of people-to-people contact in that process should never be forgotten or taken for granted. Our politics have certainly moved in a more pro-India direction, with none of our major political parties disputing the need for peaceful relations with India. Debate in Pakistan is now centred on how peace with India may best be achieved, not whether peace is even in our interest. The twin LoC incidents on their own were not enough to change the contours of this debate but any further humiliation of sportspersons may just tilt the scales in the direction of hawkishness.

The current détente that the two countries have enjoyed should be seen as fragile and easily broken. Any temporary anger we feel should be tempered by the bigger picture. The women’s cricket team has shown maturity by accepting the situation rather than walking off in a huff. But that does not mean India should be spared criticism for its heavy-handed response to the LoC incidents.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2013.


Lala Gee | 11 years ago | Reply

@gp65 .:

"I was carried away by all the bad press about the inadeqate accommodation for the Pakistani women cricketers. But it looks like this is more of a myth than reality. They have been treated well and the team themselves say it."

The kind of demented minds and twisted logic Indians present is unparalleled. Is it really the matter of accommodation? Rather it is a matter of respectful equal treatment. Being a host of an international event, it is India's responsibility to treat each and every team in the same manner and provide level security to all the teams all the time at all the venues. Had this been the situation with Indian team in Pakistan, they would have refused to play outrightly due to security concerns. Perhaps Chairman PCB is a too staunch believer of 'Aman-ki-Aasha', otherwise any self-respecting person should have already called back the team.

Lala Gee | 11 years ago | Reply

@gp65 .:

"You can keep attaching links but you have not answered my question."

Sorry, making you more intelligent is beyond my capacity. However, I am sure most Pakistani readers understand, and that is what only matters to me. Cheers.

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