Monday, February 01, 2010

Absence of dialogue is hurting Pakistan, not India

The Hindu : Opinion / Leader Page Articles : Absence of dialogue is hurting India

Using the recent auction of players in IPL 3, Siddarth Varadarajan is arguing that the absence of dialogue is hurting India. Evidence? Sidd said so.

In the IPL 3 auction, of the 66 players on offer, only 11 players were sold. None of the 11 Pakistani players was grabbed. IPL is a windfall for the cricketers who have managed to get a contract. It is a huge money spinning machine for the BCCI, an advertising bonanza for the corporates, a fillip to our economy, and a great entertainment source to the public. Apart from the Pakistanis (and by extension, our jhollawallas) whom nobody will be missing, it is hurting none.

There were security concerns surrounding IPL 2 as it was identified as a prime target for terrorist attacks. IPL tournament coincided with the 2009 General elections. The Centre refused to commit additional paramilitary forces to enhance the security at the games. So the venue was shifted out of India to South Africa.

IPL2, just like the IT sector in Bangalore, represented the economic success of India. This is what made it a prime target for the terrorist attacks most of which were originating in Pakistan. BCCI had the option to invest in its own security arrangements or cancel the IPL2. Or shift the venue out of India in a short span of time and incur a huge cost and manage a logistical nightmare. That it chose to do so indicates that the decision was dictated by sports, business and common sense. It was not aimed at enhancing India's soft power or brand or bilateral relations with South Africa. Being a commercial entity responsible to its stakeholders, it took a decision that was in the best interest of all its stakeholders. Was it a snub on India? Did it suggest an inability by India to provide security to it citizens and guests? No.

If IPL 3 auction is a snub on Pakistan, by the same logic shifting the IPL 2 was a snub on India. But there was no hysteria then. We understood it as a decision driven by sports, business and common sense, just as the IPL 3 auction is. No need to get all worked up into a frenzy, Sidd.

Pakistan is a pariah in international cricket. All countries have canceled their tours to Pakistan citing security concerns. Over the past 3 years, South Africa played 2 matches in 2007 and Sri Lanka played 2 matches in 2009. The Sri Lankan tour was abandoned mid-way because of a deadly attack on the cricketers in which several players were injured. If countries have stopped touring Pakistan, it is not construed as a snub. It is plain common sense. Pakistan must understand that it cannot reap the commercial or diplomatic benefits of cricket if it indulges in terrorism, whether within or outside its borders.

If Pakistani cricketers had to be selected in order to promote people-to-people contact or for some diplomatic reason, next there will be demands to specially accommodate them in Indian reality shows. Before we know, there will be talks of reservations for Pakistanis. Thanks, but no thanks. Private enterprises are better left alone. We have seen the effects of 50 years of state intervention during the Nehruvian Stalinist era. Private enterprises in the hands of Indian government are disastrous tools of coercive diplomacy.

IPL auction is not a result of lack of official contact between the two governments. It is because Pakistan has pushed itself to irrelevance in cricket. Pakistan, along with West Indies and Bangladesh, is at the bottom of the rankings. And Pakistani players are notorious for their mercurial performance. Now, India vs Australia rivalry is considered bigger than the rivalry with Pakistan. Put simply, nobody is dying to see Pakistani players in IPL 3. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, the IPL auction decision was influenced by the middle class who form the bulk of the consumer base. And they did not like the idea of gifting their money to Pakistanis. Or atleast that is what the club owner thought.

The worry about IPL auction being used by Jihadi elements within Pakistan to gain moral high ground is an absurd argument. In fact, it shows a cynical manipulation by the terrorist elements to recruit or motivate its cadre. Such elements do not need a legitimate grievance for it does not take much effort to create imaginary ones. Siddarth Varadarajan wrote articles on Gujarat taking liberties with truth. LeT used material by leftists, seculars and jholawallas to reinforce the message to the terrorists of 26/11 attack that muslims are being persecuted in India.

On using India's soft power to restore normalcy in our relations with Pakistan, there is no strong case for India to enhance its soft power keeping Pakistan in view. In fact, India will better be able to enhance its soft power by ignoring Pakistan. Take the case of Bollywood which is hugely influential. By contrast, Pakistan's film industry has all but shut down. Bollywood's soft power will grow by focusing on India rather than making Urdu films focused on Pakistan. Themes based on Pakistan will not find resonance in many places even in Pakistan because the Islamists will ban them.

BCCI toppled the British and Australian hegemony over cricket by riding on India's economic growth. Take the case of IPL. It is a highly lucrative business model that emerged to cater to the Indian consumer and not targeted at any specific external market. Once again, it is a sign of India's growing prosperity and domestic market potential. India's soft power lies both in its growing financial clout and the access to its domestic market.

Under the given circumstances, denying Pakistanis the use of Indian soft power is as effective a tool as using India's soft power on Pakistan in negotiations. For Pakistanis, India provides a way for redeeming themselves from the ghettos to which the radical Islamists have pushed their society. This is what the IPL auction demonstrates. Pakistani cricketers have been denied access to India's domestic market and it hurt them.

So there is no urgent need for India to get onto the negotiation table. If we have negotiated with Pakistan for decades without conceding an inch, that is no reason to continue doing so. Old strategies do no hold in the changed situation. India and Pakistan are on two different trajectories. While India is rising, Pakistan is on a self-destructive path. Pakistan is bound to look at events from the old prism, but there is no need for India to get hyphenated with Pakistan.

Just as accommodating Pakistani players in IPL provides them an easy outlet from the Islamist ghettos, dialogue with India provides legitimacy to the disintegrating Pakistani democratic establishment. India must stand firm and not get into talks until Pakistan cracks down on the extremist elements within Pakistan.


Robin said...

Check this release

Dear Friends

It is crystal clear that injustice has been done to the Pakistani cricketers in the IPL 3. The controversy has pushed India-Pakistan relations to a low again. In the sub-continent, where cricket is a religion and cricketers are treated as demi gods, the cricket authorities and governments have to be more serious and sensitive.

We, the under signed, request IPL, Indian and Pakistan Cricket Board and both the government not to adopt aggressive postures. Rather than taking pot shots at each other it is time to step back and try to resolve the controversy. We welcome the statement of P. Chidambaram, Indian Home Minister, that ignoring Pakistani cricketers was a “disservice to cricket”. Eleven Pakistani cricketers were available in the auction.

We also welcome the statement of Shah Rukh Khan, co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, that it was “humiliating” to see none of the Pakistani players being picked up and that the issue could have been handled better.

We feel that the situation is not irretrievable. Pakistani cricketers can still be included as there are possibilities of replacement due to injury. We appeal to all IPL team management to accommodate Pakistani cricketers, and to the government to take initiative in assuring the team owners that political groups will not be allowed to disturb the matches.

At the same time, we also appeal to the Pakistan Cricket Board to revoke the cancellation of NOC given to Pakistani cricketers to enable them to participate in the IPL 3.

Admiral Ramdas Mumbai

Mahesh Bhatt Mumbai

Jatin Desai Mumbai

Mazher Hussain Hyderabad

Kamla Bhasin Delhi
Seema Mustapha New Delhi

Sukla Sen Mumbai

Meena Menon Mumbai

Hindu Fundamentalist said...

thanks robin. goes to show the macabre ways of our liberal intellectuals.