- Apart from cricket, other matters demand attention from both countries
The tour by the Bangladesh team is welcome because it is taking place. It might well be another step on the path to Pakistan’s return to hosting international cricket, but the initial hesitation by the Bangladesh Cricket Board has led to a split Test series, with only one Test being played on this visit, the other being played when the Bangladesh team returns in April. The attempt by Bangladesh to show that Pakistan is still unsafe to visit probably has more to do with old politics rather than concerns with player safety, but the visit, as well as the preceding difficulty, should make us look at what is wrong between the two countries, and also at the commonalties which make the resumption of cricket ties an opportunity for the two countries to grow closer.
The two counties have an unfortunate history, with Bangladesh being part of Pakistan until 1971, when it seceded after a bitter conflict. The wounds of that conflict are apparently not over, and trials, and even executions, of the Awami League’s political opponents, for war crimes then, have taken place as recently as 2016. Though it would make sense for these two countries, which are the two largest in South Asia after India, to cooperate, Indian influence in Bangladesh continues to play as malign a role as it did in the then province of East Pakistan.
India’s role in the initial Bangladeshi resistance to visiting Pakistan is obvious. India is leading the campaign to paint Pakistan as unsafe, and is apparently not content with keeping its own team aloof, even on neutral venues. Apart from the kind of affinity which led the Muslims of Bengal to opt for joining Pakistan in 1947, Pakistan has the additional motive of increasing the resistance of smaller powers to Indian hegemony. At the moment, Bangladesh is exactly the kind of country Modi wants as an Indian neighbour, complaisant, no matter what India does. At the moment, while India tries to shift those rendered stateless into Bangladesh, Myanmar is also sending over Rohingya. Bangladesh and Pakistan have yet to solve the issue of displaced Pakistanis. The impending crises may make that look like a mere bagatelle. Pakistan should firm itself for the coming storm, and cricket might be a good place to start.