Editorial: India-Pakistan slug it out again
India’s foreign minister Yashwant Sinha has put Pakistan in the same league as Al Qaeda and Baghdad. This is not the first time Mr Sinha has chosen to lash out at Pakistan, provoking the Pakistan foreign office to describe Mr Sinha’s observations as the product of a “sick mind”. The use of language on both sides shows where things stand between the two states. Meanwhile, the United States and the UK in a joint communiqué have urged Pakistan, following the massacre of 24 Hindus in India-Held Kashmir, to stop infiltration into territory held by India and observe the sanctity of the Line of Control. The two countries have also asked India and Pakistan to begin talking, and so on.
None of this is new. But some aspects of the problem bear repetition, if only to set the record straight. Since the 1999 Kargil conflict, India has chosen to paint Pakistan as a rogue state. It has put the blame for every terrorist attack in Kashmir on Pakistan. This is part of a well-constructed plan, not a knee-jerk reaction. India’s troop mobilisation and threat following the December 13 attack on its parliament kept the region hostage for more than 10 months. Yet its own court entrusted with the job of investigating that case made no mention of Pakistan in relation to that attack in its entire judgement.
India’s modus operandi regarding all the attacks has remained the same. Following every such terrorist attack, the attackers were killed and any “evidence” of their identity, like cell-phones, found on their bodies, was alleged to establish some link or the other with Pakistan. In some cases, they are reported to have eaten chocolates whose wrappers “indicated” that they were made in Pakistan. But while Indian security agencies have been so quick in determining the identity and linkages of the attackers, they have been totally inept in thwarting such attacks. The disconnection is simply incredulous. Indeed, the timing of such attacks has been so embarrassing for Pakistan as to prima facie absolve Pakistan of any culpability in the first instance. Yet the question of what Pakistan must do under the circumstances cannot be avoided, especially because India clearly has more political support for its viewpoint than Pakistan does and Pakistan’s calls for talks have fallen on deaf ears.
Pakistan should stick to its commitment to peace on the basis of resolving all outstanding disputes and differences with India. It should also avoid doing anything to provoke conflict with a neighbour that is desperate to give Pakistan a bad name and hang it. The most important aspect of Pakistan’s policy at this stage should be to put down those of its militant groups that are as much a problem domestically as they are on the foreign policy front. These groups, as evidence shows, are dangerous and will not stop at anything to undermine Pakistan’s national security concerns at the altar of the mythical Islamic “ummah’s global” concerns. *
Pakistan hockey success
Believe it or not, Pakistan still has a hockey team that can qualify to play international tournaments and actually win some. This statement of course is no reflection on the team which has acquitted itself in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Cup by beating reigning champions Germany and lifting the trophy. It is a reference to how the state and even the people of this country have (mis)treated the sport over the years.
At a time when big money had not stepped into the arena of sports, at least not in this part of the world, our hockey team was the brightest star on the sport’s firmament. Teams played us not to win but to lose gracefully. Pakistanis would be glued to their radio-sets listening to running commentary on hockey matches. Then big money came in and went to cricket. Suddenly, all the aggressive marketing pushed cricket centre-stage; cricketers became teenagers’ idols, landed advertisement contracts, and generally strutted around as celebrities. The old-style hockey players began to fade. They would be paid a pittance — that remains true to this day — but they played for glory rather than bounty. It could be done then; but it can’t be done today.
Hockey faded in the glare of cricket. Today, it is confined to Gojra in the Punjab and perhaps a few other places. There is no structure of the sport; boys play on uneven grounds, pick up the stick-work and wait to catch someone’s eye. This happens for a lucky handful; for most the breakthrough never comes. Small wonder we have fallen from the heights of the sport. European teams now dominate the sport. Yet, in the last few years we have seen glimpses of the old brilliance. The current team won the Azlan Cup in 2000, lost the next tournament but has managed to win it again. This is more than the cricket team has ever done. It’s time to encourage these boys, restructure the sport, pick up the talent early, mix glory with bounty and build on our comparative historical advantage. The least we can do is to try and be good at what we did well in the past. *