2015 – a year to rejoice for spoilers

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

Posted in , India, India-Pakistan Relations, Pakistan

Hamzah Rifaat

Hamzah Rifaat is an anchor for Policy Beats, a current affairs and policy oriented web talk show series. He has over four years of broadcasting experience. He is a gold medalist with a Master of Philosophy degree in the discipline of peace and conflict studies from the National Defense University in Islamabad. He holds a diploma in World Affairs and Professional Diplomacy from the Bandaranaike Diplomatic Training Institute in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He was a freelance writer and blogger for the Friday Times and received a CRDF scholarship to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, where he studied nonproliferation and terrorism studies at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. He was also a Graduate Editorial Assistant for Women's International Perspective, a global source for women's perspectives, based in Monterey. He has also represented Pakistan as a member of the CTBTO Youth Initiative 2016. His writings encompass political and internal security issues in Pakistan and he regularly contributes for The Diplomat Magazine. Hamzah is a former SAV Visiting Fellow (January 2016).

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3 thoughts on “2015 – a year to rejoice for spoilers

  1. Hamzah,
    Yes, 2015 was an unsatisfying meal.
    Whether 2016 is more satisfying depends, in large measure, on whether Rawalpindi is willing to expand the scope of its counter-terrorsim efforts.
    Best wishes for the new year,

  2. Michael,

    I concur. However, I also believe the onus is on the BJP leadership in India to show some flexibility towards a weak but important civilian government here in Islamabad. Vajpayee was a statesman. Apparently, Modi is not.

    Wishing you a very happy new year.

  3. Laziness on the part of authors who accept content of Press releases without any conviction, helps create a blurred picture even when utmost clarity exists. India has been a victim of sponsored attacks from Pakistan since as long as memory exists. Suddenly when the monsters created by Pakistan started consuming it, the spin masters who midwifed total misery in South Asia with policies of non State actors and concepts like strategic depth, have made brave efforts to deflect attention on their past actions by claiming violence in Pakistan was sponsored by RAW. Should not an journalist ask to see the evidence based on which such claims are made ? Far easier to spread the word without seeking evidence, I presume. No one in Pakistan has gathered enough courage including its Parliament to ask for or see the contents of the much publicized Dossiers handed over to the US and UN ? Not even the legal fraternity who understand Law and can differentiate evidence from innuendo ? Very convenient, but who other than Pakistani citizens will buy this propaganda ?

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