It is naive to argue that sports can strengthen political relationships between two nations. On the contrary political bonhomie must precede sports and games.
Few will disagree with the Indian government's decision to cancel the Indian cricket's team tour of Pakistan next month. It is always easy to say that politics and sports should not be entwined but that is just not possible. Moreover it is not just a matter of security concerns that the tour has been called off. Following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai there is no way the tour could have had many supporters in this country. Permission had to be refused in keeping with the government's policy to take a tough stand against Pakistan.
It is certainly not business as usual in the two countries. The tragic events in Mumbai and the war of words between the two governments has led to a rather acerbic situation and in this surcharged atmosphere to play a sport that has always aroused tense nationalistic feelings was just not on. It is naive to argue that sports can strengthen political relationships between two nations. On the contrary political bonhomie must precede sports and games. It would be imprudent to play cricket with a country with whom India is all set to mount a diplomatic offensive.
It is an unfortunate fact that India-Pakistan encounters have always had an undercurrent of tensions about them. Thanks to past history and the fanning of emotional outbursts by an irresponsible media and unreasonably excited cricket fans on both sides of the border these have not been games but "war minus the shooting" as they have often been billed. Whether the matches are played in India or Pakistan or at neutral venues the games have been known to frequently spark off violent protests or unacceptable acts. And in the present circumstances it was always going to be prudent policy not to tour Pakistan. As Indian Sports Minister MS Gill rightly asked while saying it was inadvisable to go on the tour "is it possible for one team to arrive in Mumbai and indulge in mass murder and have another team play cricket in Lahore immediately after?" There is obviously more at stake here than cricket and it is time to keep in mind the larger interest of nationalistic feelings.
Public sentiment too demands that India should follow up its stern message to Pakistan with an unambiguous resoluteness that offers no space for such concessions as a cricket tour. In this regard it is worth noting that the director-general of the cricket establishment in Pakistan Javed Miandad is the father-in-law of the daughter of India's most wanted criminal Dawood Ibrahim.
Former Pakistan captains Imran Khan and Wasim Akram have not unexpectedly joined the media in their country in hitting out at India's decision to cancel the tour. Imran terming the decision as "double standards" and linking it to England's return to play the Test series in India betrays a lack of understanding of the situation.
These are two very different issues but then of course Imran is also a leader of a political party. And well known cricket writer Kamran Abbasi's comment that "India, the self-appointed guardian of cricket's conscience, has failed its most important test of conscience," can be dismissed as rabble-rousing.
Pakistan has ended the year without playing even one single Test in that country-a rather unfortunate development but one for which they have to largely shoulder the blame.