Throughout the recent known history of the globe we live in, sports played an important role in initiating dialogues. Often nations used sports to display their strength at a larger arena. The NAZI Germany’s extravaganza hosting of Olympics 1936 is considered as the premier example of how a regime can boast about its economic and engineering advancement of the time. Hitler, not only made sure that world must recognise the strength of German people but also displayed the NAZI might to the world.
The sports played a pivotal role during Cold War as an icebreaker between the conflicting giants. Be it football, wrestling or boxing, the sport played the role of an icebreaker between the capitalism and communism. In the modern times, the meeting between supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un and American basketball legend Dennis Rodman definitely helped break the ice. Rodman, who was favourite basketball player of Un, during his visit to North Korea did try to initiate talks between the US and North Korea. Moreover, President Donald Trump while meeting Kim Jong Un, highlighted the importance of baseball that happened to be equally famous in both the nations.
The long-standing rivalry between Pakistan and India has seen many lows and highs. Importantly, the sports has played a key role in breaking the ice whenever was needed. Be it Milkha Singh running against Abdul Khaliq in Lahore and getting a title of ‘Flying Sikh’ from then President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, or be it India winning cricket series in Pakistan and President Musharraf praising MS Dhoni’s hairstyle, sports remained the icebreaker between both the rival nations.
Line of control, or famously known as the LOC between India and Pakistan is once again very hot. There is a set pattern that is being followed by the ultranationalist hegemonic government under Narendra Modi, leader of the Bhartya Janta Party (BJP) powered by narcissist Rashtrya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Since taking the premier office of India, PM Modi has turned the secular India into a Hindutva state.
Today’s self-centric India is not only reshaping internally but it has been showing hegemony towards the immediate neighbours.
Initially, India shown its might to weaker neighbours like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal by coining a new term in the region of surgical strikes. Immediately after that, it turned towards its arch-rival Pakistan. In the wake of the Uri attack in September 2016, India claimed to have conducted surgical strike inside the territory controlled by Pakistan. Pakistan not only denied any of such attack but took a delegation of foreign journalists to the location highlighted by the Indians. Pakistan not only termed Uri as a false flag attack but declared the Indian surgical strike as a hoax call of Modi government to appease its voters. Then comes the Pulwama attack in February 2019, followed by the jingoism against Pakistan on Indian media that lead to Indian Airforce (IAF) claiming to conduct the air raid deep inside Pakistan in the thicks of the night in late February. Pakistan did accept that Indian fighter jets entered in Pakistan and released the payload in dense forest for a quick return. The Pakistani PM Imran Khan famously commented that ‘India killed our few trees that indeed were very dear to us’ and said it clearly that Pakistan will avenge this intrusion.
The very next day after the IAF ‘thief-like’ intrusion in the darkness of night, Pakistan Airforce (PAF) responded with an air attack by intentionally dropping precision-guided bombs yards away from the military command offices in Rajouri sector, importantly, in the brightest of daylight. In response, IAF jets followed the PAF jets that met a horrible fate. An IAF SU-30 was the first to be hit by a PAF JF-17 that fell inside Indian-occupied Jammu.
Additionally, out of unpreparedness and scrambled radars, Indian army’s air defence shot its own carrier helicopter inside occupied Jammu carrying 6 officers. The most important event was shooting down of IAF MIG-21 that fell inside Pakistani territory along with its Wing commander Abhinandan, who glided down and got caught by the villagers. The eventful day indeed ended with utmost humiliation for the Indians. Later on, to de-escalate the situation, PM Khan handed over the pilot to the Indian authorities at Wahga border. Significantly, the Modi’s dream of being hegemonic towards the smaller neighbours was over.
In the most recent incident of Poonch attack on Sikh Regiment, Pakistan and India are once again on the edge of another head on collision. Pakistan was already expecting another false flag as the internal political as well as security situations are not in favour of PM Modi and his aggressive government. The echoes of farmers’ protest in India, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab were clearly suggesting the all-important offices of Pakistan to be prepared for yet another false flag incident in India. This time around, attack on Sikh Regiment and killing of Sikh soldiers makes it even more suggestive that India wants to replace antigovernment sentiment of largely Sikh farmers with anti-Pakistan and anti-Kashmir sentiments. Indeed it is time that the sanity must prevail.
Significant is the fact that since India procured French Rafale and American Sea Guardian Predators, Pakistan was anticipating the Indian madness. To reciprocate, Pakistan has inducted HQ-9/P long-range Surface to Air Missile system in its Air Defence capabilities along the LOC. Indeed this induction would be enough to counter any Indian misadventures.
Yet again, tensions are high between India and Pakistan, the modern war-bugles in shape of jingoistic Indian media are already bugling aloud, and hate monger politicians like Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath are trumpeting the warmongering narratives in political rallies. It seems as if the nuclear neighbours are once again at the verge of a clash.
Interestingly, the game of cricket has played a key role of icebreaker in the diplomatic history of subcontinent. Cricket is as followed in both Pakistan and India as religions. The emotional attachment to the game on both sides of the border has enormous importance. Not to be forgotten is the fact that the current Premier of Pakistan, Imran Khan is a former skipper and all rounder of Pakistan’s cricket team who won 1992’s World Cup for Pakistan. There are several examples of past when leader of one country went to other side to watch his national team play against other’s. The cricket game has been providing the opportunity for not only leadership to leadership meet-ups but also people to people interactions.
Pakistan is not the only neighbour that India has ongoing issues with, China too is building up against India on its borders. The Sino-India territorial differences exist since the Indian creation. Both fought a war in 60s on Line of Actual Control (LAC). The conflict on LAC is full of skirmishes. The latest is ongoing that got triggered in early summers of 2020 in Eastern Ladakh. The Galwan clash between India and China has opened up a new front for India. India indeed is defending itself on two fronts currently. The Chinese buildup in Arunachal Pradesh and on LAC suggests that China is not a holiday trip, rather it wants to constantly engage India on the front. The bilateral military talks to resolve the territorial differences took place thirteen times so far but all in vain. Indian army’s Corps Commander of Eastern Command, Lt. General Manoj Pande, openly stated that China has already setup its three fully functioning airbases along the border with India and the work on fourth one will be completed soon. Moreover, India too had to increase its military presence on LAC to match the Chinese buildup.
Importantly, Chinese buildup comes at a time when India is openly portraying as flag-bearer of the US in the Indo-Pacific region. Being member state of the QUAD will indeed come at a cost for India. In contrast to this scenario, India is confident that its alliance with the US in the US-China Trade War will be an insurance justified. But, India needs to ponder upon important facts before cementing the alliance. Firstly, two front conflict will lead to disastrous results, mounting to even balkanisation of India. Secondly, India might lose Russia as an all seasoned friend in the region. Thirdly, India has turned itself into the frontline of western alliance against China, the ultimate focus of an economic and military giant like China would indeed be on the frontline. Fourthly, the alliance against a powerful and self-reliant neighbour like China would require a heavy dependence on the western weaponry that would seek insane enhancement of defence budgets, a heavy burden on fragile economy of a poor country like India.
Internally, India is faced with a menacing polarisation, that too on the behest of the ongoing ultranationalist politics. The resistance movement in Kashmir is at its full swing. The abrogation of articles 370 & 35A is turning out to be the fresh fuel for already existing freedom enchantments. Since the Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir has turned India into a jailor and Jammu and Kashmir into an open jail, the courage of the valley’s youth and their dedication to the cause has doubled.
India must understand that it might silence the voices of the valley but it can never erase the idea of freedom from the minds and souls of the Kashmiris.
The draconian acts like Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have further alienated the Muslims in India. One wonders, if India is faced with a warlike situation in nearing future, how it will seek loyalty of those whom today’s India disowns. The sudden pace of Khalistan movement suggests that today’s Indian Punjab seeks justice once for all. Farmers’ protests are fast turning today’s Punjab into another resistance movement. The situation in the northeast India is no secret at all. Armed resistances in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland have been gaining momentum and pace. Naxal-Maoists movement is also active and was once rightly termed by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as ‘the biggest threat to internal security of India’. India must understand that China is only at an arms length from Indian “Chicken’s Neck”. As India is in an open conflict with China as well as internally vulnerable, China will eventually exploit the Indian fault lines to weaken it internally. All China would need is finance the resistance movements within India and turn them into armed struggles against Indian armed forces to engage the enemy from within. China has the right economic muscle to execute it. In fact, China can beat India without heating its own gun barrels.
It is indeed the right time for India to resolve its pending issues with the neighbours rather than portraying as senseless hegemonic on the behest of those friends whose ships always reach late in wartime scenarios. Geographically, one can change friends but can never change neighbours. Frankly, Pakistan has an extensive bitter experience of such long distance love affairs.
Meanwhile, in the latest developments from the playing fields of Asian cricket, the hosting of upcoming Asia Cup of 2023 has been announced in favour of Pakistan. Importantly, the decision was taken by Asian Cricket Council (ACC) executive board meeting, chaired by Secretary of BCCI, Jay Shah. The decision indeed is very pleasant for Pakistan, especially when New Zealand and England refused to play in Pakistan due to security concerns. The decision also is important as it gives a signal that India has no security-related issues in playing in Pakistan. Indeed this is the right time for cricket to play its icebreaker role in subcontinent. Now when the Western cricketing nations refused to play in Pakistan owing to hoax security concerns, it is time that PCB must invite neighbouring BCCI to play in Pakistan. If not the national men’s team, then at least women or the under-19s. Every little helps when it comes to the Indo-Pak cricket.
In the midst of all the trademark subcontinental madness, only Cricket bat can stop the grenades to be thrown across the LOC. Indeed, Pakistan and India need a field to initiate talks. Why not compete in cricketfield rather than the battlefield. Indo-Pak dialogue longs for an icebreaker.