Monday, September 22, 2008

Cricket, Peace, and Stable Indo-Pakistani Relations

Peace and stability on the Indo-Pakistani border is vital to nuclear non-proliferation and the War on Terror. The Indo-US nuclear deal has been activated, and Asif Zardari won presidential election in Pakistan this September.

In view of recent political progress in the Subcontinent, a stable Indo-Pakistani relationship is one of the keys to US led War on Terror, because the United States needs further commitment to both Iraq and Afghanistan. In an interview with BBC on September 12, General David Petraeus stressed that Western operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are interconnected. It is an interest for both Pakistan and India to defeat extremists and promote democracy in Afghanistan, as well as it is for the United States and Western allies.

A recently founded professional cricket league will be able to nurture friendship between India and Pakistan, which will contribute to the development of Indo-Pakistani relations.

In India, there are two professional cricket leagues: the Indian Cricket League (ICL) and the Indian Premier League (IPL). Just as US Major League Baseball has an outpost in Canada, so does ICL in Pakistan (and also in Bangladesh).

ICL was found in 2007 to bolster the level of Indian cricket to succeed in the World Cup. Currently, there are nine teams as the following:

Mumbai Champs
Chennai Superstars
Chandigarh Lions
Hyderabad Heroes
Kolkata Bengal Tigers
Delhi Giants
Ahmedabad Rockets

in Pakistan
Lahore Badshahs

in Bangladesh
Dhaka Warriors

There are some Anglo-Irish names in the rooster of each ICL team. This is just like Japanese professional baseball. Indian cricket teams employ players from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Britain, and Ireland; just as Japanese baseball teams sign contracts with American players. Therefore, I feel some sort of common bonds with Indians.

Among ICL teams, the Lahore Badshahs is quite unique as it is solely composed of Pakistani players who have previously played for their National team. This is quite like one Japanese baseball team. During its heyday from mid 1960s to early 1970s, the Yomiuri Giants of Tokyo boasted that they did not need to rely on the Anglo-Irish, because their line-up was consisted of the crème de la crème of Japanese players.

Will cricket contribute to peace between India and Pakistan? International media tend to focus on nuclear bombs and terrorism, but grassroots interactions are no less important. Stability between both nations is critical to success of the war in Afghanistan. As long as Pakistan is well-governed enough for people to enjoy ICL cricket games, US-led coalition can maintain sufficient level of forces in Iraq.

Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are becoming increasingly interconnected. Therefore, stability in the Indian subcontinent has grown more important than ever. It is worthy of talking about the Indo-Pakistani relationship from completely different perspectives from those of major international media.