Popular Posts

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Cricket: A potent tool of diplomacy

July 16, 2012
Diplomacy is a vital cog in international relations; it is a process of amicably dissuading other states from doing something detrimental to a state’s interest. It also includes the abdication of some secondary interests in lieu of some favors. However, states do not find the middle ground on their vital interests, and are not reticent to go to war for their protection. Ever since, the inception of India and Pakistan, the region has witnessed, nothing but strained ties alternated with bouts of tranquillized milieus. There are various stumbling blocks, which continue to vitiate the relations between the two nemeses, but will not be delved upon in this piece. Both nations resorted to diplomacy to ameliorate ties with each other, but as yet have failed to achieve the desired results. However, whatever strides have been made for achieving thaws have been espoused by the love for cricket across the 1610 long international border. To say that cricket binds the two nations together is ludicrous, for both nations lock-horns. In order to look at the resumption of cricket ties in a broader spectrum, one needs to look at the past.
The love for this dynamic game has been used as a tool of diplomacy. The fact that, Indo-Pak matches are or were in high demand; good relations were all the more imperative. Cricket between the two nations started in 1952; the acrimony was same like that in the war zones, but due to wars and conflicts, cricket trysts were intermittent, yet riveting. For instance, when Shoaib Akhtar was steaming in at National Stadium Karachi on 13th March, 2004, it was after 1989 that India came to Pakistan for a bilateral series. Anyways, the relation between cricket and diplomacy came to the forefront in 1987.
Some analysts call General Sundarjee as the bravest Indian Army chief, but he was the man responsible for indirectly orchestrating “Cricket Diplomacy”. He introduced the “Sundurjee Doctrine” which was based on 7 defensive holding corps and 3 strike corps. In a quest to test the doctrine, India embarked upon the massive operation “Brasstacks”, which was then, the largest build-up for an exercise. However, due to the type of ammunition used, and the fact that all was being done close to the border, the cats were set among the pigeons. Nukes were assembled; forces were mustered, and both states were on the cusp of war. However, General Zia was astute enough to visit India for ostensibly watching the Indo-Pak match, but it was a perfect example of cricket diplomacy; war was averted as Rajeev and Zia sat together. Without doubt, cricket helped in avoiding disaster.
The sheer euphoria of Indo-Pak encounters made the diplomacy possible. Again, due to strained relations both teams did not meet each other after 3rd June 2000 till 13thMarch, 2004, barring the WC 2003 encounter. This was mainly due to the aftermath of the attack on Indian Parliament on 13th December, 2001. Again, operation “Parakram” brought both countries on the brink of war.
While responding me, Mani Shankar Aiyar termed Musharraf’s tenure as the golden epoch in Indo-Pak relations. True, the bilateral ties between BBCI and PCB resumed, with India’s tour to Pakistan in 2004. Relations were bettered due to strengthened cricket ties and vice versa. We all witnessed enthralling cricket from 2004 to 2007, both in India and Pakistan. Celebrities went across the border for the explicit purpose of cricket. Even General Musharaf went to watch the ODI at Delhi on 17th April,2006 and had fruitful discussions with Dr Manmahoon. Things were going smoothly; Pakistani players adorned the first edition of the Indian Premier League, with Sohail Tanveer receiving the Purple Cap. Soon, the ties were vitiated by the Mumbai attacks. War was imminent; cricket wilted under the virulence of terrorism. Since 2007’s Pakistan tour to India, both teams have only played 8 ODI’s that too in multilateral events, to include the World cup Semi-Final at Mohali on the 30th of March.
This match ended as a debacle for the Afridi-led team, but since both Prime Ministers along with their entourage  had lengthy discussion, it paved the way for future permutations. Ever since then we have seen a Détente of some sorts. Off-late Sialkot Stallions, the champion of the domestic T20 tournament have been invited for the Champions League.
Now, the BCCI has officially called Pakistan for a short tour in December. The tour will entail 3 ODI’s and 2 T20’s, hence, after 5 years, bilateral relations have recommenced. Is this significant? Indeed, it is not only a sigh of relief for cricket lovers across the globe, but also for aspirants of peaceful co-existence. Cricket will open-up avenues of resolving issues, or at the  least  purvey  opportunities to delve on all bones of contention. It will augment people to people contact.
Having said that, cricket is not that potent a panacea for foisting peace. There are some grievous conflicts, which have jeopardized the region since the past so many years. Besides these conundrums, skepticism and recrimination has left in a huff. The only way-out is to continuously embroil in a composite and certainly, cricket will 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Kayani's speech: Ominous or Veritable

COAS,General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s speech to a clique of officers in GHQ has  been exacerbated; however, before delving into this speech, there is a need to provide succinct background of civil-military relations during this democratic epoch. Democracy is considered as the only panacea for Pakistan’s problems. This claim is debatable. Let’s not go into the quality, sincerity and commitment of the drivers of democracy: politicians. But the foibles committed by the PPP-led coalition continue to leave the country in a huff. The PPP shunned criticism with impetuosity: chanting about the rigging done against them in 1990’s elections and of course the gruesome act of 4th April, 1979. Agreed, they got a rough deal, but the past cannot absolve them from their responsibilities towards the people of my country. The army, under the leadership of General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has remained apolitical; those who think otherwise should give vent to their claims. The military is tenaciously hunting-down militants; the Swat and South Waziristan operations ended with marvelous success. Having personally met the wounded soldiers, who sustained injuries in recent combats in Miranshah, I feel that the current perception with regards to the reticence of the army in confronting militants is hogwash. Let’s not get into the role of military in the “War on Terror”, for it is impertinent with the topic in question. However, the fact that the military has remained away from acts of subverting the government, speaks volumes of the tolerance of General Kayani.
We have witnessed a very docile military, which has virtually acquiesced on whatever the tainted politicians or the respectable judiciary has ordered. One needs to shed light on one very important instance, which was nothing, but an invitation to the military. In December, 2011 former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani unnecessarily talked about a state within a state; this was something bizarre, since a few days prior to the statement he boasted of having the army/ISI under his control. The statement was highly-incendiary; the rejoinder from the ISPR set the cat among the pigeons. However, nothing happened, much to the delight of all. The military remained committed to strengthening democracy, but the politicians remained focused on minting money from state exchequer, and most importantly, they disparaged the apex court. However, PPP lackeys think that Gilani’s ouster was accepted out of sheer veneration of the judiciary. Sorry, but one cannot be beguiled by this statement; Gilani sacrificed his premiership for the party, not the country or judiciary, for that matter. This was testified by the then influential Firdous Ashiq Awaan. Party policy and discipline is highly pronounced by the PPP; however, one must not forget   that their oath is sacrosanct, which means that the country is above everything.
Now let’s analyze what our Army Chief said, while addressing a cohort of officers in GHQ. Kayani said “as a nation, we are passing through a defining phase”. If this statement is objectionable then the same is written by Stephen Cohen, Bruce Riedel  and others. Why aren’t they lashed by the so-called liberals? Why are we linking this sentence to the inaugural speeches of previous dictators?  This is tantamount to provocation. If experts consider this sentence or the whole speech as a precursor to martial law, then it must be accentuated that, there was no prior warning for any of the previous martial laws; the military needs no write-ups or press conferences for foisting martial law. There is no rationale or need to give dangerous vibes regarding this sentence. The rest of the speech must be perceived with all the positivity. Give the devil its due, since he openly admitted that, mistakes were made, and that one must learn, so as to improve things in the future.  He was 6 years old on 7th October 1958; a rookie teenager when Yahya took over and had graduated into a captain at the time of Operation Fair play. Yet, he is willing to take responsibility; he is even not questioning the elements which paved the way for military interventions. Why can’t we hail Kayani for not poking his nose in a democratic set-up? Although, he had plenty of opportunities He has not attacked the judiciary in his address.” No individual or institution has the monopoly to decide what is right or wrong in defining the ultimate national interest”. This statement is being lambasted by anchors, lawyers and others. Certainly, negativity has got the better of them; they should see this as a reversion from the previous fallacy of the army considering itself  as  the guarantor of national interests. The part which pertains to pre-judgment and transgression is aimed against some elements of the media, to include aggressive activities on  Twitter.  Being a Twitter buff myself, I confront authors, critics and anchors who flay the military day-in, day-out, but fail to provide evidences. They talk about the ISI as if they are privy to something surreptitious. Linking Imran Khan with ISI; passing the buck of the Balochistan imbroglio on the military/ISI/FC and eschewing the incompetency of Mr Raisani. These critics had given their call on the Asghar Khan Case even before the court. Hence, General Kayani gave a soft rejoinder to media personalities. Most certainly, the dissemination of such information creates a wedge between the populace and the armed forces. It serves as a strong force in dissuading future aspirants of joining the military. Twitter is fast-becoming a dime a dozen in spreading information of every type and kind.
Last, I feel a need to shed light on talks of the  military’s support for the militants; one feel saddened on the fact that, we have plenty of home-made Bruce Riedel’s , who, while, remaining in  Islamabad lecture us on FATA. Do we support the Haqqani Network? The answer is in the negative. The mere fact that we are not launching a military operation cannot imply support to them. Since, we are already fighting three groups in North Waziristan; we cannot open a front with a seemingly innocuous Haqqani Network. With less numerical strength; the inability of ISAF/ANA/US Army in controlling their side of the Durand Line, makes the operation unviable. Yes, the easy way out is by telling  General Bikram Singh to stop Cold Start, and thin-out their presence on our border, so that, we can bolster our might in FATA; an attacker requires forces 3:1 vis-à-vis the defender.
Let’s pay eulogy to General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani; let’s not use the term “Fauji “ or “Generals”. Blame individuals, not the institution.  No army should tolerate any attempt to break the trust between the leader and the led.