Kashmir Protest

We thought we would have a cricket match, maybe a bilateral visit or two? I certainly thought I could visit Pune, maybe someone wanted to visit Islamabad too?

To cut a long and frustrating story short, 2015 ends as a dismal year for Indo-Pak relations. Maybe we were to relive the Vajpayee-Nawaz era in the late 1990s, where even a simple bus service would allow citizens of both countries to interact with one another and allay tensions. Instead, what we had was the same vituperative rhetoric from the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter if you’re Modi or Musharraf and whether it is Togadia or Hafiz Saeed– one certainly misses Vajpayee or Manmohan and most would definitely feel sorry for Nawaz.

So let’s recall this wonderful year as a South Asian meal. We had Pav Bhajis in the form of the cancellation of NSA level talks, Parathas in the form of LOC Skirmishes, and Kheer in the form of terrorism being linked to either RAW or Pakistani bred insurgents (yawns).  To top it all off, the Gulab Jamun, which is the callousness of the Modi government towards engaging Pakistan, makes this a wonderful buffet with a variety of dishes at one’s disposal. For folks here in Islamabad though, Nawaz’s constant push for negotiations with his better half has not gone down too well, but thankfully for our beloved Prime Minister, Pakistan had benefitted from CPEC which underlines the undeniable fact that Pakistan’s geostrategic importance cannot be taken for granted if ye wish to pursue economic expansion, Mr. Modi!. Yet, the Indian Prime Minister has given India plenty to cheer about, such as Digital India which allows citizens to avail government services online and increase internet connectivity and has given India plenty to jeer about as the debate over intolerance continues to rage in intellectual circles and highlights how fallible power politics over religion actually is in a country as vibrant, diverse, and dynamic as India.

But come on! Lay the pessimism off!  We have had some amazing “CBMs.” which stands for Cacophonies, Bombardments and Missiles and which have strengthened the relations between both countries. Take the UN General Assembly forum where only waves were exchanged or the much hyped photograph between both prime ministers taken in Paris which turned out to be little more than a simple exchange of courtesies. Swaraj however defied the odds and visited Islamabad, in what was possibly viewed as an icebreaker, but for many it turned out to be more to do with the Heart of Asia rather than her probable infatuation with the Margalla Hills in Islamabad. It was a false dawn and a last hurrah. Forget lending a hand towards peace, all hail the brilliant CBMs!

So who benefits, from all of this? Maybe it’s the common Indian or Pakistani who grapples with poverty, alienation, intolerance, and exploitation by those at the helms of power yet may not view each other as an enemy?  If that really is a case than a game of cricket could have done just perfectly.  Yes! Cricket! A game which is more of a religion in India and just about the same in Pakistan! And ought to diffuse tensions and unite a cricket thirsty public and promote goodwill. This bargaining chip was certainly better than any old bilateral visit by a country mile and history has shown that even contests between both countries taking place in neutral venues have managed to ignite a ‘desi’ flavor to the game, where moments such as Tendulkar’s majestic cover drives or Wasim Akram’s thunderbolts have been shared by all or none.

Yet that too had eluded the general public. Pakistan’s push for reviving cricketing ties with India resulted in a backlash by the Shiv Sena in Mumbai and calls for playing on neutral turf had also been hit for a six. From a Pakistani perspective, one gets the feeling that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was not exactly familiar with what Operation Zarb E Azb actually means which in truth is all about Pakistan eradicating militants on its soil which have affected both countries and acted as potential spoilers. Who knows? Maybe Zarb E Azb is viewed as a pigeon with a love letter, which violates the sanctity of the LOC to spy on their headquarters. Yes, it’s easy to be ridiculous yet difficult to face reality.

The reality is that as much as there is potential for this relationship to blossom, politics, power mongering and trust deficits have marred any prospect for both nations to come to come together and discuss key issues and resolve differences.

But what a year it has been!

We thought we would have a cricket match, maybe a bilateral visit or two. I certainly thought I could visit Pune. Maybe someone wanted to visit Islamabad too?

Maybe 2016 would or should do.

***

Image: Jack Zalium, Flickr

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