Will cricket politics push forward dialogue?
ARIF SHAFI WANI
Srinagar, Mar 27: India and Pakistan have again resorted to cricket symbolism to push forward dialogue. And this time, it is a new Pakistani leader who will be visiting India. However, unlike the earlier two occasions, there is neither any promise nor a potential for a political breakthrough.
On two occasions before, Zia-ul-Haq in 1987 and Musharraf in 2005, stage was set for big things—albeit the leaders failed to realize the potential of the meetings.
In 1987 Pakistan was in the strongest-ever position vis-a-vis India. US and Islamabad continued to be the most allied of the allies in what was the fag end of the Cold War. Pakistan and US backed Taliban were in the ascendant in Afghanistan and in a few years would control Afghanistan.
Besides, in India, Punjab was in flames. The secessionist movement in the state was at its peak. Zia, the most powerful dictator in Pakistan, had come to India to Jaipur to watch an Indo-Pak match and also discuss outstanding issues with New Delhi—albeit Kashmir didn’t have the current urgency in the relationship between the two countries. Zia’s visit left little bonhomie but whatever understanding it helped create evaporated with Zia’s death a year later, an event which became an anniversary in Kashmir through nineties to be observed with a hartal. The match witnessed by Zia at Sawai Mansingh Stadium ended in a draw.
Musharraf in 2005 came again riding on high expectations. It was a Musharraf sobered by the drastic geo-political re-alignment post 9/11. He had just undergone a fundamental shift in his idea of a Kashmir solution. He was in the process of creating a new political frame of reference which soon would fructify in him announcing his four point proposals. The proposals sought a Kashmir settlement without a change in the borders and informally acknowledged the irrelevance of United Nations resolutions.
However, 2005 was still a beginning on to this exciting road. New Delhi found itself unable to reconcile the hawkish General Musharraf of 2000 and a flexible leader of 2005. Musharraf’s visit was not all in vain. He successfully fashioned an intimate dialogue process with New Delhi which came closest ever to resolving Kashmir before the general’s sudden exit from power in Pakistan.
Another cricket diplomacy between the two countries at Mohali, however, doesn’t generate the same hopes. For one, the hangover of the former two failed cricket summits overhangs the upcoming new meeting. And for another, the discourse on dialogue between the two countries has returned to the traditional political positions, with New Delhi once again shy of discussing Kashmir and Islamabad seeking a solution as per the UN resolutions on the state. Musharraf’s proposals stand abandoned or so it appears from the kind of voices coming from Pakistan.
However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani can still make a difference. And this difference would not be about concluding a sensational agreement but about starting new process of dialogue with a potential to deliver within the tenures of the two governments.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 27 Mar 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 27 Mar 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 28 Mar 2011 00:00:00 IST
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