In the recent past the two neighbors, India and Pakistan were at it again, the same old story that has been played out over and over again.
The same feverish pitch, the same blame-game, the same heated language, the same rolling-up of sleeves and shaking fists at each other! Allegations and counter-allegations! Sabre-rattling at border points!
Incendiary speeches and 'patriotic' rallies! That old pummel bag – the Kashmir issue – was once again brought out of the closet. Both sides worked themselves up into a frenzy.
The electronic media went crazy, digging up footage of old wars and scars with the TRPs of these channels rising in direct proportion to the national indignation. I think that Karl Marx fellow was way off the mark when he called religion 'the opium of the masses'.
It is not religion but pseudo-patriotism and narrow-nationalism that is the opium of the masses nowadays! What better way to make people forget the squalor and misery of their lives! What better way to keep people from getting restive with all the injustice that they are mired in?!
But having witnessed all this brouhaha countless times I stay calm in my knowledge of how things will turn out eventually! Even as war-analysts start seeing mushroom-shaped clouds of nuclear destruction in their imaginations, I remain smug in my belief that nothing is going to happen.
And true enough, this time also as soon as the conflict reached a crescendo, the 'eyeball-to-eyeball' confrontation just collapsed as suddenly as it had begun, and before you can even gather your wits, the leaders of the two neighboring countries are calling each other about a cricket match!
Peace has been declared! And this peace has a way of turning as passionate, if not more, as the impending war between the two! If the past is any indicator the entertainment industry might soon be organizing music shows and joint movie-ventures and we will have the 'intellectuals' organizing debates and discussions, seminars and symposia! And of course there is always cricket and the so-called 'cricket diplomacy'.
But then honestly 'cricket diplomacy' is a misnomer when used in the Indo-Pak context. After all cricket is supposed to be a gentleman's game and there is little that is gentlemanly in the relationship between the two countries.
Besides cricket would hardly make a good choice when it comes to straightening out things between the two considering that it is a legacy of the British and so are all the contentious issues between the two! For instance Kashmir is one of the main issues that always comes up to sour the relations between the two countries and brings to nix all the goodwill generated by Pakistani singers and pirated copies of Indian movies.
India would have the world believe that Kashmir is no issue at all but Pakistan insists on making an appeal every now and then if only to make the crowds back home go wild and take their mind off other issues. Then again every time the Pakistanis try to hit the boundary (which is called LOC in the Kashmir stretch!) the Indians shout 'No Ball'! In the not so distant past General-turned-Chief Executive-turned-President Musharraf indulged in ball tampering so far as the Kashmir issue was concerned and just as this long drawn out match between India and Pakistan seemed to be ending in a draw (as a result of his efforts!) the bat changed hands.
Not that that is going to make much of a difference. After all the umpiring will continue to be done by Uncle Sam and even the current establishment in Pakistan knows for sure that issues like Kashmir constitute a rather sticky wicket in the post 9/11 world. The sad reality is that all matches are 'fixed' now and anyway so far as Pakistan is concerned it seems to be 'finger-up' for the Kashmir issue – declared 'out' for all practical purposes.
Coming back to our original topic, as can be seen from the above commentary, cricket hardly fits the bill when it comes to diplomatic relations between the two countries. Indeed it is not cricket but something earthier, something like say 'Kabaddi' that would define the relationship between the two countries. 'Kabaddi' as all of us know involves crossing over of a player to the other side of the line (or boundary or border as you like!) dividing the opposing teams.