Although India and Pakistan are out of the T20 World Cup in the UAE, the iconic hug of the respective cricket team captains after India’s defeat in its match with Pakistan highlighted an important point: The persistence of a deep public yearning for peace, despite three-quarters of a century of wars and tension.
Following up on this random expression of mutual affection could heal old wounds between the two subcontinent nations.
Cricket is the sport their citizens love most. Deep animosity does sometimes find jingoistic expressions whenever either side faces a defeat – as it did this time in India, with instances of violence against Kashmiris celebrating Pakistan’s victory. But there are examples in recent history when so-called ‘cricket diplomacy’ helped normalize bilateral relations.
The credit for initiating cricket diplomacy between the two nuclear archrivals goes to former Pakistani military ruler Gen. Muhammad Zia, who visited India in 1987 to watch the India-Pakistan match in Jaipur at a time when the two countries were close to the brink, having amassed their armies close to the borders. A war was averted. Since then, cricket diplomacy has often come into play to reduce mutual tensions.