Off to the World Cup

Things have really changed in India since Pakistan was last there

The Pakistan team has arrived in Hyderabad, India, for the World Cup, and its first matches on Indian soil in a long time. It is perhaps symptomatic of how Pakistan only plays India in international tournaments. Let alone working towards restoring bilateral ties, which would entail both the Indian team touring Pakistan, and the Pakistan team visiting the former, India has tried to banish the apparently polluting presence of Pakistan from its soil in international tournaments. It successfully managed to avoid visiting Pakistan for the Asia Cup, and its getting Sri Lanka to co-host the tournament served both to save the Indian team from coming to Pakistan, and almost ruined it by staging matches in the middle of the rainy season.

Another important factor has been to prevent Pakistan getting the revenue that would accrue from hosting an international tournament. It also served to put Pakistan in its place, as the Pakistan Cricket Board scrambled desperately to remain part of the Asia Cup, and at the same time avoid jeopardizing participation in the World Cup. From the 1987 World Cup, when Pakistan was a co-host, and not only hosted its share of pool matches, but also a semi-final, to the present, where Pakistan prepares to play its matches in fear and trembling, has been a downward spiral.

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Perhaps the main reason is the BJP, and its corrosive brand of nationalism. The BJP does not seem to have any alternative to violence, and it is that violence that Pakistan’s team most fears for itself during its visit. The refusal by the Indian authorities to acknowledge the heightened threat, and to provide the same security as it provides to other teams, is apparently an ill-concealed invitation to Vishwa Hindu Parishad supporters, and generally Sangh Parivar goons, to take the law into their own hands. That is the sort of attitude that led to the Indo-Canadian spat over the killing of a Khalistan Movement activist.

Indian security concerns are not what led to the delay in visas for the Pakistan team, even though they were applied for months in advance; it was sheer bloodymindedness. The odd desire to prevent Pakistanis from polluting the soil of the Indian motherland has also led to the squeezing of visas for Pakistani fans, who were still anxious to go and support their team, even though they knew that they could well be risking their lives. India’s policy seems to be one of weaponising cricket and using it against Pakistan, instead of letting it be a sport bringing the two countries together.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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