Production of this issue of Crescent International has been considerably hampered by the fact that it has coincided with the series of one-day cricket matches between Pakistan and India at the beginning of the Indian team’s first tour of Pakistan since 1989.
Production of this issue of Crescent International has been considerably hampered by the fact that it has coincided with the series of one-day cricket matches between Pakistan and India at the beginning of the Indian team’s first tour of Pakistan since 1989. As both countries are cricket-mad, the tour was seen as an ideal way of cementing the recent improvement in political and diplomatic relations between the two countries. Before the tour began, the Pakistan government was nervous enough about its people’s response to ensure that no Test match was scheduled in Karachi, where there was considered to be the greatest risk of anti-Indian protests. In the event, the fact that the first four matches of the one-day series produced thrilling contests and scintillating cricket from both sides (the fifth and deciding match of the series will be played as Crescent goes to press) ensured that people’s attention did not drift to less peripheral issues.
Nonetheless, the context in which this sporting rapprochement is taking place cannot be ignored. The improvement in relations between the two countries that has made this tour possible has been based entirely on Pakistan acceding to India’s demands in key aspects of their relationship, including its support for Kashmiri mujahideen struggling for freedom from Indian occupation, support for Indian Muslims suffering under the rule of a Hindu fascist government, and the maintenance of a credible nuclear program to balance both India’s nuclear program and its massive superiority in conventional military forces. Pakistan has been unable to stand up to Indian demands on these issues because the US has backed India, despite its traditional alliance with Pakistan, and Musharraf is so beholden to the US for his own position that he cannot resist on anything.
There is in Pakistan a small, pro-Western, secular elite in Pakistan who see only benefits from Pakistan becoming a regional satellite of India, sharing much in terms of culture and attitude with India’s elite, and caring little for the points of principle that Pakistan has surrendered. The vast majority of Pakistanis, however, remain staunchly patriotic and deeply suspicious of India, with good reason. Musharraf’s hope – and that of India and the US – is that the current cricket tour will paper over these chasms and lead to a softening of Pakistani attitudes. This is why the tour has been accompanied by a massive charm offensive by Indian politicians, film stars, former cricketers and other celebrities, all proclaiming their joy to be visiting Pakistan, the welcome they are getting, and their hopes for good relations between the two countries in future. Already plans are being laid for a tour of the Pakistan cricket team to India later in the year.
One can only hope that Pakistan’s masses are able to separate their love of cricket from their political instincts. Even if they do, however, there appears to be little that can prevent Pakistan’s elites’ ever-greater betrayals of their country.