History of Cricket Diplomacy:
This "cricket diplomacy" goes back to February 1987 when former Pakistani President General Zia-ul-Haq went to India to watch a Test match between the two sides as part of his "cricket for peace initiative". This meeting did help lower the temperature that had been raised when India held large military exercises near the Pakistani border in Rajhastan and Pakistan responded by amassing its troops at the India-Pakistan border. Though Pakistan did win the Test series, the effect of diplomacy did not last long in helping resolve any of the longstanding issues between the two South Asian neighbors.
The last time India and Pakistan engaged in "cricket diplomacy" was when President Musharraf was invited by PM Manmohan Singh on April 17, 2005, and the match ended very badly for India. Pakistan beat India by 143 runs, propelled by Afridi's 134 runs.
Here's how President Musharraf described it:
Unfortunately for my hosts, the match turned out to be an embarrassment for India because one of Pakistan's star batsmen, Shahid Afridi, clobbered virtually every ball that the Indians bowled at him. Many of his hits headed straight for our VIP enclosure. Like any normal cricket fan I wanted to jump out of my seat shouting and clapping, but I had to control my enthusiasm in deference to my hosts.
Before the match was over, we left for our discussions. It goes without saying that I was dying to get back to the exciting match. So during our official one-on-one meeting I suggested to the prime minister that we go back to see the last hour of the match and also distribute the prizes. I made him agree in spite of his concerns about security. But then, as the meeting continued, my staff kept sending in notes informing me about the collapse of the Indian team when its turn came to bat. India's entire team got out long before the end of the game. Tightly repressing any outward signs of my inner joy, I had to inform Manmohan Singh that the Indian team's batting had been wasted and there was no point in another visit to the stadium.
Boys will be boys, some might say, but they obviously don't know cricket, or the importance of a match between Pakistan and India.
Indian security analysts and politicians regularly blame Pakistan for the failure of past bilateral diplomatic efforts by citing what they believe is the adverse role of Pakistani military in framing Pakistan's policy toward India. This rationale, however, does not explain why the diplomatic initiatives undertaken by Pakistani military leaders from General Zia to General Musharraf have not borne fruit.
A more rational explanation for the policy failures has recently surfaced in secret US embassy cables leaked by Wikileaks and published by The Hindu. After a meeting with India's National Security Adviser and former Indian intelligence chief M.K. Narayanan in August 2009, American Ambassador Timothy Roemer concluded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was isolated within his own government in his “great belief” in talks and negotiations with Pakistan.
Sharm al-Shaikh Summit:
Roemer said that although Narayanan's hawkish stance on Pakistan was well known, his willingness to “distance himself from his boss (Manmohan Singh) in an initial courtesy call would suggest that PM Singh is more isolated than we thought within his own inner circle in his effort to "trust but verify" and pursue talks with Pakistan particularly in the wake of the hammering his government took from opposition for the July Sharm al-Sheikh statement with (Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza) Gilani.”
In the aftermath of the failure of the 2002 Agra Summit with former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, former Pakistani President Musharraf said the two leaders were close to a historic agreement until an Indian bureaucrat Vivek Katju conspired with India's entrenched security hawks to insist on last-minute changes unacceptable to Pakistan.
Resolution of Kashmir:
Kashmir remains the single most explosive unresolved issue between India and Pakistan, and President Musharraf devoted a lot of his energies with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to try and resolve it. The formula envisioned soft or porous borders in Kashmir with freedom of movement for the Kashmiris; exceptional autonomy or "self-governance" within each region of Kashmir; phased demilitarization of all regions; and finally, a "joint supervisory mechanism," with representatives from India, Pakistan and all parts of Kashmir, to oversee the plan’s implementation. It appears now that the hawkish Indian security establishment has succeeded in scuttling the peace efforts based on the Musharraf formula.
Indian Think Tanks:
A new and significant factor that stands in the way of peace and security in South Asia is the emergence and growth of Indian think tanks, making India second only to the United States in numbers of such think tanks.
Out of 422 recognized Indian think tanks, around 63 are engaged in security research and foreign policy matters. These are heavily funded by the global arms merchants. India’s retired spies, police and military officers, diplomats and journalists are hired and handsomely compensated by such national security & foreign policy research institutes.
They exaggerate terror threats with the help of the media and intelligence folks to promote greater defense and security spending. As a result, India has already become the world's largest importer of weapons last year, according to SIPRI. These weapons imports are done at the expense of other far more pressing needs of the world's largest population of poor, hungry and illiterate people who call India home.
Pakistan has to be willing to take bold initiatives for peace and harmony in South Asia. But it takes two to tango. As long as the Indian hawkish security establishment remains in charge of India's Pakistan policy, there is very little chance of success of any initiatives, including the latest round of cricket diplomacy in Mohali.
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