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Why Pakistan can never be a great neighbour

By Vivek Gumaste
February 02, 2010 18:01 IST
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The polemics emanating from the IPL affront to Pakistani cricketers again brings to the fore the confused morass that is the Indian psyche; a jumble of misplaced morality and mawkish sentimentalism that revels in sadomasochistic self doubt and translates into a gibberish that has no functional value.

The net result is a floundering nation unsure of how to confront the inimical forces that confront it. In simple terms, a country that is unable to make strong decisions and stick by it.

Rajasthan Royals' co-owner Shilpa Shetty unusually forthright response to the brouhaha that followed the non-selection of the Pakistani players was a breath of fresh air. She bluntly remarked: "People have to be a little more sensitive, a bit more mature. Let's not be hypocrites and let's not turn a blind eye to the already volatile situation.  …you must look at it pragmatically and see that we have had these people who are constantly threatening.

"It's not something we hold against the Pakistani players. We completely understand the situation but as franchise owners are we willing to take that risk? If something happens to the Pakistani players, the onus lies on us and who is going to take responsibility for a situation like that? When we said 'availability', we wanted complete assurance that those players would be available in the country and that we were going to be able to provide security for them."

At the outset the near unanimity of action of the IPL was praiseworthy. It was grounded in reality, made good business sense, accounted for security concerns and above all resonated with the national sentiment prevalent in the nation post 26/11.

Although the IPL refuted the charge of a premeditated conspiracy there was no denying the undercurrent of patriotic fervour. It was strong decision but subtle and hurt the enemy where it hurt most. And for once India revealed a depth to its character, an ability to stand up for itself, a new found confidence that clearly said: 'Don't toy with us'. But alas the satisfaction was short lived.

Soon notes of dissent surfaced with our honorable home minister and a Bollywood icon mouthing a namby-pamby view that was in line with India's perpetual guilt complex.

There was no need to be apologetic about the IPL stance. Yet there was Shah Rukh Khan decrying the decision not with a logical counterpoint but by singing paeans to Pakistan and invoking personal ties. He remorsefully exclaimed:" It (Pakistan) is a great neighbour to have. We are great neighbours, They are good neighbours. Let us love each other.
Let me be honest. My family is from Pakistan, my father was born there and his family is from there,"

Two glaring inconsistencies stand out in this remark. One, if Pakistan is really a great neighbour then I am Albert Einstein. Without mincing words let me say that Pakistan is a deadbeat nation that is nothing more than a drag on India's progress. The less we have to do with this nation the better.

The second objection concerns the merging of private and public domains. I have no issue with Shah Rukh Khan's personal empathy for Pakistan borne out of familial affiliations even if it cuts across hostile boundaries. But can a national icon cite family ties to influence the professional decisions of an India based organisation or to sway public opinion?

The home minister's response too was unnecessarily defensive with an uncalled for dose of self reproach. He dubbed the non-inclusion of Pakistani cricketers as a 'disservice to cricket and contended that 'these players were coming as individuals, it was not a Pakistan team.'

Another misperception that stems from a lack of pragmatic thinking. A perusal of the following excerpt (Saba Naqvi. It's Not Cricket. Outlook, January 25) reveals that these Pakistani players are not isolated individuals but members of a larger hate India club that is Pakistan.

'Consider this conversation that took place in a TV show titled 'A morning with Farah' on ATV, a Pakistan channel. Sohail Tanvir, who helped the Rajasthan Royals win and got the highest number of wickets in the first IPL is being interviewed by another journalist while the glamorous hostess, Farah, looks on. Consider Tanvir's remark: 'Hinduon ki zahaniyat hi aisi hai (the Hindu nature is like that only)' the implication being that the Hindus have deliberately deceived and humiliated Pakistanis. The journalist responds with a remark about Indians being baniyas and says: 'bagal me chhuri/ muuh me Ram Ram' (they are ready to plunge a knife behind your back though they will keep saying Ram Ram). The gentleman with this shocking view of Indians in general and Hindus in particular then goes on about how India is tricking Pakistan out of hosting the World Cup next year.'

This vitriolic outpouring is shocking but what makes it even more despicable is the prime time prominence given to such Hindu/Indophobic venom. In comparison, it is hard to find such rabid talk from even the far right of the India's political spectrum and certainly not on national television. It is this stark difference between the two nations that needs to sink into the fuzzy minds of our peaceniks.

We, in India are quick to vilify those who propose a hard line approach to Pakistan that includes severing cricket ties by branding them as radical and uncivilised. We cannot mix cricket with politics is the oft quoted mantra. But what is so sacred about this dichotomy? Is it a directive derived from logic or common sense or an abstract feel good notion with no utility value?  And has continued cricketing ties mitigated Pakistan's terror shenanigans?

I would like to look at in another way. This is not about cricket and politics but cricket and humanity. I am passionate about cricket and love the game. But that is the point. Cricket is merely a game and must take second place to humane concepts.

Is it not barbaric that we choose to continue playing cricket with a people whose compatriots routinely massacre our innocent civilians? I find it uncouth when we walk over the dead bodies of the carnage of 26/11 and extend a 'loving' hand to Pakistan and Pakistanis? This suggests that we care little for the lives of our citizens and more for our image and entertainment.

This train of terror cannot go on. We must draw the line somewhere and it is here and now even if it means no cricket.

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Vivek Gumaste