India, Pakistan and cricket diplomacy

On November 14, the Cricket World Cup in the United Arab Emirates ended. Australia was sacred, but the main thing is elsewhere: for the first time, Pakistan beat India in this competition.

When the British Colonial Empire ended in 1947, its territories in India were divided between two countries: predominantly Hindu India and predominantly Muslim Pakistan. Tensions quickly crystallized around the province of Kashmir. Three armed confrontations took place in 1947, 1965 and 1971.

Since then, the two powers have acquired nuclear weapons, and the conflict has not been resolved. Any reason for dispute can quickly degenerate, especially for ethnic or religious issues.

Cricket, a “combat sport”?

On both sides of the border, cricket is THE national sport. India-Pakistan in cricket is like France-England in rugby: the match is a fight, and it is first and foremost a matter of honor! So much so that, since 2004, for these South Asian countries, meetings never take place “at home”, but always on neutral ground. The last crunch1 saw India’s victory in London in 2019.

Everything seemed calm on October 15 at the start of the competition: the two presidents of the national leagues almost invited each other to drink tea! But, when Pakistan won last October 24 in Dubai, there was no lack of passionate reactions: on social networks, the fair play of an Indian player congratulating his opponent became suspect, and one of his teammates, the only Muslim on the team, was accused of causing the loss of his country; in border areas, Indian police arrested several suspected Pakistan supporters for « conspiracy ».

Making sport an instrument of diplomacy is a double-edged sword. It can be a place of dialogue to ease tensions: thus, the first Americans to enter Communist China in the 1970s were the players of the ping-pong team! It can also help « add fuel to the fire », especially when the games are watched by nearly three hundred million viewers, and even if the television rights are fairly shared! We better understand the issue of sporting encounters between two enemy brothers. And the diplomatic importance of other major events such as the Olympics.

1. Crunch is a sporting event that takes place every year.

Did you know ?

Cricket is the ancestor of American baseball; it is a very old sport born in Europe, of which we find the oldest traces in France, and which remained very popular in all the countries of the former British Empire. It opposes two teams of eleven players. Meetings can last from a few hours to several days depending on the variant chosen.

News n ° 138 – December 1, 2021

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