CRICKET had previously served as the basis for imagining peace, and now is the means of punishment.

INDIA'S current stand of suspending cricketing ties due to hostilities and strained relations is, in a sense, a reversal of the previous status quo.

Ever since India's first tour in Pakistan 1954-55 every subsequent full tour it had in the country took place when Pakistan was under military rule.

Cricket was used as a way of softening the political impasse and a significant public relations move for the military rulers. The General Zia era saw four visits by India, while the General Musharraf regime, hosted them twice.

In between and since, during spells of democratic rule, there has never been a full Indian tour. Since 2008, however, the Indian state has used suspending cricket as a moral imperative due to its issues with Pakistan.

Both these policies show how powerful the impact of cricketing ties between the two nations can be.

Cricket had previously served as the basis for imagining peace, and now is is a means of punishment.

For the Pakistani establishment those tours had served to bolster local morale as well as portray a positive image abroad.

Those who experienced the 2004 tour by India, and the attendant friendship and camaraderie between rival fans can attest to the  profound impact of such tours.

For the Indian government now, ending cricket serves as one of the more potent punishments in the face of their possible options.

Given that the alternative is war, banning cricketing ties doesn't seem like the worst thing,

Indeed, it is highly preferable to the events of the past few weeks. However, at the same time, one can't help but feel that cricket - one of the most authentic cultural forces of the region - has been reduced to a pawn.

While it can be argued quite convincingly that the Indian bans have had negative impact on Pakistani cricket, it is absolutely certain that such moves had zero impact on militancy.

Given that India's main aim is to prevent what it alleges is Pakistani-sponsored terrorism, such a ban doesn't cause any impact whatsoever.

The World Students Society thanks author and researcher Ahmer Naqvi.


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