Monday, April 4, 2011

Win-win situation

Before the match, the weight of history was with the side batting first which has won in 72 per cent of all matches played at Mohali. The experts and bookies had also tilted in India’s favour. It had a better batting line-up, half a dozen players were firing on all cylinders, captain MS Dhoni was tried and tested for Tests, ODIs and 20/20s. The Indian cricketers were also playing before a highly charged and partisan home crowd. Pakistan, by contrast, was just beginning to shrug off the burden of shame and demoralization after the match-fixing scandal in England last year that laid three of its most talented players low, captain Shahid Afridi had a spotty record, and the youngsters were not fully groomed. Indeed, it was remarkable that they had beaten giant-killers like Australia and the West Indies to inch their way to the top.

In the heat and dust of battle, however, two key facts have been overlooked in Pakistan. 

  • First, the better performing and more professional Indian “team” won by using its brains and not brawn. This is largely a consequence of a developing Indian (not Hindu) mindset based on the mundane but fierce aspirations of an upwardly mobile, educated, secular, middle-class that is billing itself not only as an organized, disciplined and reliable engine of economic and cultural growth but also as a most attractive emerging market with disposable money in an increasingly flat world. This is in stark contrast to Pakistan in which the state is riddled with problems of identity (Muslim or Pakistani) and notions of national interest (honour versus interests), and Pakistanis are consequently grappling with multiple crises of economy, culture, education, integration and cohesion. This is a recipe for pride and passion in all aspects of life and sport, not professionalism and principle. Interesting, the other cricket match finalist is another secular South Asian country, Sri Lanka, which has nearly 100 per cent literacy, a high economic growth rate and has just won a civil war to unite the country and make it strong and unified. Both ambitious-country examples prove that while individual talent is a necessary condition for sporting success, the sufficient condition is provided by strong nationalist motivation based on a realistic sense of economic destiny and political confidence that stresses the role of unity, discipline and professionalism rather than faith or the hand of Providence alone in determining fate or destiny.
  • Second, the cricketing encounter has opened up the possibility of serious discussions about “permanent peace” between India and Pakistan. 
    • There are five main reasons for this initiative. 
      • First, Dr Manmohan Singh’s government is dogged by charges of corruption and mismanagement and is weaker today than at any time before. Personally, too, he is at the fag end of his political career without having made any great mark of distinction. So now was a good time to take a more inspiring initiative and invite the leaders of Pakistan to smoke the “permanent peace” pipe at Mohali, especially since the odds were heavily tilted in favour of an Indian victory.
      • Second, India’s investigations into the Samjhota Express bombing case in which 47 Pakistani were killed have revealed the hand of Hindu extremists in India rather than Islamic hardliners in Pakistan. This gives Pakistan a fillip in countering India’s charge of sponsoring terrorism against Pakistan. 
      • Third, the Indian courts have convicted Ajmal Kasab but acquitted two Indian Muslims of links with the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayba leader Hafiz Saeed, thereby debunking the claims of India’s National Security Advisor MK Narayanan that all three were taking orders from Mr Saeed. This too has weakened India’s charge-sheet against Pakistan’s ISI. 
      • Fourth, India’s quest for a permanent Security Council seat at the UN requires it to be reasonable and responsible by at least mending fences with its neighbours, especially nuclear-armed Pakistan.
      • Fifth, a continuation of India’s rapid economic growth is predicated on a permanent peace and trading relations with its neighbours rather than the specter of nuclear war and terrorist subversion.
  • Pakistan has invited Dr Singh to visit Pakistan and make a notable gesture of permanent peace. He should seize the day. At least Siachin and Sir Creek are amenable to quick resolution as all Indian and Pakistani diplomats and pundits know. So India’s win at Mohali needs to be cemented with an Indo-Pak “win” in Lahore during Dr Singh’s visit to Pakistan as soon as possible.

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