Indian Decade

India Resumes Cricket Ties With Pakistan

While a small step, could India and Pakistan use “cricket diplomacy” to foster better relations?

There is a chill in the air between India and Pakistan,  but the relationship between the two largest sub-continental neighbors is warming. The announcement on Monday that cricketing ties between India and Pakistan would resume is an indication of growing warmth between the two countries.

India broke all sporting ties with its western neighbour after the 26/11 Mumbai attack, which New Delhi claims was orchestrated by Pakistan-based terrorist groups in collusion with the country’s intelligence agencies. 

The decision to engage Pakistan in sports marks a major departure from India’s stated position of not resuming any bilateral sporting activities until Islamabad acts against the alleged perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks.

The cricket itinerary that starts from December 25 is very short. The series will consist of three One-Day Internationals and two Twenty-20 matches, but it sends a larger political message to the outside world .

Resumption of sporting activities should also be seen in the context of recent developments in the political and economic fronts. Not long ago, former Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna had a successful visit to Islamabad where he signed a number of agreements – the prominent ones being the easing of visa restrictions, greater people to people interactions and the strengthening of economic ties. Pakistan has already given India Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status. For the first time New Delhi hosted a Pakistani trade fair several months ago. Today, the Indian capital is the proud owner of a Pakistani designer shop, something which has never happened in the last six decades.

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Overall, the resumption of cricketing ties was just a matter of time. There is already  speculation that Pakistani players will soon become a part of the Indian Premier League (IPL). After the 2008 Mumbai attack, the IPL stopped accepting Pakistani players out of security concerns in India. At the time, the general mood was also not in favour of inviting players from the other side of the border.

But the mood has changed. Political commentators believe that Monday’s development might be a precursor to the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Islamabad, which has been long overdue.