As long as cricket is similar to a war, Indo-Pak peace efforts will remain frozen

Isn’t it amazing? Last week this time, the post-Pathankot effect was holding the whole cooking range hostage. Now it isn’t even on the back burner. The detention of Maulana Masood Azhar and twelve other JeM members and India’s decision to postpone the Foreign Secretary talks and, for now, leave them open-ended, has exhausted the attention span of the country.

It is almost as if the brouhaha never occurred. Even the role of Salwinder Singh has gone down the tube.

Perhaps there is activity behind the scenes, but it is certainly not frenetic or feverish, because if it was, there would be some indicators, some movement.

It is pretty much like Sharif and Modi are two tired boxers grateful for the respite sitting in their respective corners waiting apprehensively for the bell to ring.

Indo-Pak border. Representational image. Reuters

Indo-Pak border. Representational image. Reuters

And the bell will ring. There has to be another round. India has to ask for the answers to all its concerns. How much further down the road is Pakistan prepared to go in restraining its openly anti-India factions? How does one get a guarantee that Pathankot won’t happen again? And will Pakistan clear the ambiguity associated with its call for ‘enough evidence’ from India of its collusion.

Where is Maulana Azhar now? Do we know and what is being done about India’s wish list of other wanted people? The sum total of action at present is merely the ‘protective custody’ given to Azhar, which could just be a nice way of appeasing India and Azhar at the same time.

Ironically, sport might just be the catalyst to get things going again. In some direction.

As of now, Pakistan will come to India in seven weeks to take part in the T20 World Cup. The PCB had made mewling sounds about dumping the tournament in October 2015 after India refused to play the first of a signed and sealed six series MOU (between now and 2022) scheduled for December.

They will have played the Asia Cup in Bangladesh just before this visit and much of the warmth or cold shoulder vis-a-vis the public perception will depend on the performances in this tournament. If Indian wins they will be more gracious hosts and even the fringe elements will not be too aggressive. If India loses, it could well queer the pitch for getting them over here because no one wants a loss on home ground. If Pakistan wins, they will want do it again on Indian soil. If they lose, the PCB might again raise the bogey of security concerns in coming to India.

That initial display of bravado of threatening to sidestep the World Cup was in the pre-Pathankot time. The situation is even more fluid and sensitive now. The chairman of the PCB, Sharayar Khan, has indicated that there is a difference between bi-laterals and multi-laterals and because of the snubs the Pakistani team will not visit India in 2017 to play what is the second of the six series agreement reflected in the MoU. That sure is worrying!

But they will come for the T20 World Cup. Which kind of gives you an idea of how financially bereft the PCB is that the lure of the World Cup allows for such semantics; it is not the country they are visiting, it is the venue as decided by the ICC.

Ensuring their protection will be an Indian issue and one that has to be taken seriously. India cannot be the locale for any untoward incident. For those who naively believe cricket has no role in the Indo-Pak equation, they would be well advised to think again. As far as national fervour is concerned, it is second to perhaps only Kashmir in the basket of prickly pears. You don’t have to like it, but it is true.

The picture in Bangladesh is not going to be a pretty one. The stakes are brutally high and the contest a proxy war...a mindset that both countries have to rise above.

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Updated Date: Jan 18, 2016 17:32:10 IST

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