‘아시아엔’ 해외 필진 기고문 한글요약본과 원문을 게재합니다.
[아시아엔=나시르 아이자즈 아시엔 지부장] 크리켓은 인도, 파키스탄, 방글라데시 등 남아시아에서 가장 인기있는 스포츠다. 특히 국가대표 경기가 있을 때면 온 국민이 흥분할 정도다. 하지만 ‘인도와 파키스탄’만큼은 다른 국가대표 경기들과는 다르다. 양국 국민들이 흥분이 아닌 ‘광분’을 하면서, 크리켓 경기장은 전쟁 같은 분위기가 형성된다. 영국 식민지배를 받던 파키스탄과 인도가 1947년 국경을 두고 벌어진 분쟁을 계기로 양국관계는 악화되기 시작했다. 이후 양국은 1965년, 1971년 두 차례에 걸쳐 카슈미르 전쟁을 치렀다.
동인도회사가 파키스탄과 인도에 크리켓을 전파한 이래 크리켓 강국이 된 파키스탄과 인도는 1952년 파키스탄이 인도로 원정을 가며 양국 최초의 크리켓 경기를 치렀다. 1955년 인도도 파키스탄으로 첫 원정을 가기도 했다. 두차례의 카슈미르 분쟁 이후 크리켓 경기가 있을 때마다 양국의 열기는 더욱 뜨거워졌다. 이는 파키스탄 군부가 집권했던 1978년까지 계속됐다.
‘크리켓 외교’란 용어는 1987년 파키스탄 군부정권의 무하메드 지아 울-하크 대통령 집권기에 최초로 사용됐다. 당시 울-하크 대통령은 인도를 방문해 현지에서 크리켓 경기를 관람했고, 폭발 직전이었던 양국관계는 다소 완화됐다. 1980년대 말부터 1990년대까지 인도와 파키스탄 관계는 양국이 아닌 제3국에서 경기를 치러야 할 정도로 악화됐다.
1999년 아다팔 비하리 바지파이 인도 총리의 파키스탄 방문 직후, 파키스탄 국가대표팀은 이에 대한 화답으로 인도에서 원정경기를 치렀다. 안타깝게도 같은 해 발발한 카르길 전쟁으로 양국 관계는 다시 얼어붙었고, 이는 2012년 12월 인도크리켓협회(BCII)가 파키스탄을 초청해 크리켓 경기를 재개하기 전까지 풀리지 않았다.
인도와 파키스탄의 크리켓 경기는 ‘크리켓 외교’를 통해 관계를 완화시켜 왔다. 경기를 치를 동안 양국 수장이 상대국을 방문하고, 국가대표팀이 상대국으로 원정를 떠나는 것은 일종의 관례였다. 물론 크리켓을 통해 양국 긴장이 일시적으로 완화된 것은 사실이지만, ‘크리켓 외교’가 양국의 평화를 유지하는 효과적인 외교수단이라고 단언하긴 어렵다. 스포츠외교가 일련의 성과를 거두려면 인도와 파키스탄은 크리켓으로 지나치게 과열되지 말하야 하며, ‘스포츠 정신’을 지켜 경기에 임해야 한다. 크리켓은 ‘전쟁’이 아닌 ‘평화를 위한 친선경기’임을 잊지말아야 한다.
Pakistan-India Cricket Diplomacy: Batting for Peace
Cricket, one of the widely played games in the world, is highly popular in most populous nations of South Asia like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where people hailing from all age groups are overenthusiastic about it. Even people who have never played cricket in their life become so excited when they watch the live telecast of cricket played anywhere in the world. The women too, especially the young and the teenagers, know the names of world players very well and chat about them often as if they were their close neighbors. But the excitement of the people living on either side of the border shoots up further, turning into a frenzy when Pakistani and Indian teams meet, heating up the atmosphere, as if a war was being fought between the two arch-rival nations on the cricket pitch.
Cricket and other sport activities are supposed to ease tensions at the borders as well as at the government level between the two nations, but the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry, known as one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world, shadows all such objectives. The spectators at the stadiums as well as the millions of viewers watching the live telecast appear as two nations having old enmity. Whenever the two countries encounter on the cricket field, it attracts approximately one billion viewers according to TV rating firms and various other reports. The 2011 World Cup semifinal between the two countries attracted 988 million television viewers.
The emergence of this sporting rivalry is the result of communal violence that marked the partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947 and the subsequent Kashmir conflict between the two nations that fought two major wars ? first in 1965 and the other in 1971.
The two nations share a common cricketing heritage, as it was introduced into the Indian subcontinent by the East India Company. Many of the players in the first post-independence teams of India and Pakistan played together as teammates in regional and local tournaments. Some of the cricketers played on the British Indian team, but later stood divided like the partition of the Indian subcontinent. Although Pakistan was created in 1947, cricketer Gul Muhammad continued to represent India until 1955, playing for India against Pakistan during Pakistan’s first tour of India in 1952. Similarly, another cricketer Aamir Ali played for India against Australia in Sydney in 1947 while Abdul Hafeez Kardar played for India from 1946 to 1948.
Pakistani and Indian teams encountered each other for the first time in 1952, when Pakistan’s team toured India to play the first Test series. The Indian team toured Pakistan for the first time in 1955, but later no cricket was played between the two countries from 1962 to 1977. Despite their common cricket heritage, players on both teams routinely face intense pressure to win, and are threatened by extreme reactions in the case of defeat instead of being encouraged in a spirit of sportsmanship. Extreme fan reactions to defeats in key matches have been witnessed, with a limited degree of violence and public disturbances. Pakistan became a permanent member of the International Cricket Council in 1948, and their tour of India was the first in Test cricket history. They lost the first Test in Delhi to India, but won the second Test in Lucknow, which led to an angry reaction from the home crowd against the Indian players. India clinched the Test series after winning the third Test in Bombay (Mumbai), but the intense pressure affected the players of both teams to the point that they pursued mainly defensive tactics that led to drawn matches and a whole series without a victor. When India toured Pakistan in 1955, thousands of Indian fans were granted visas to visit the Pakistani city Lahore to witness the Test match. Pakistan again toured India in 1961, however both series ended in a draw with no match yielding a winner or loser.
Politics and cricket
The Indo-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971 put a hold on cricket between the two countries that lasted until 1978, when it resumed for a brief period during the military regime in Pakistan. In the post-1971 period, politics became a direct factor in the holding of cricketing events. India suspended cricketing ties with Pakistan several times due to hostilities. The resumption of cricketing ties took place in 1978, surprisingly, when a military dictator Gen. Zia-ul-Haq headed the regime in Pakistan. It was a time when “cricket diplomacy” was used to normalize relations between the two rival nations.
Shortly after the War Games, Pakistan President Gen. Zia was invited by India to watch an India-Pakistan Test match being played in the Indian city Jaipur. Such a form of diplomacy was used several times later. Pakistan toured India in 1979, but an Indian tour of Pakistan was cancelled midway due to the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1984. The term cricket diplomacy was born in 1987 when Pakistan’s military ruler Gen. Zia made an unexpected visit to India to watch cricket, which helped to defuse the potentially explosive situation.
In the late 1980s and for most of the 1990s, India and Pakistan squared off on neutral venues such as Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and Toronto, Canada. The series between the two teams in Canada played in the 1990s and early 2000s was officially known as the “Friendship Cup.” The rise of multinational competitions like Cricket World Cup, ICC World Twenty20, the Austral-Asia Cup and the Asia Cup led to more regular contact albeit briefer contests between them.
In 1999, immediately following the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s historic visit to Pakistan, the Pakistani team toured India for Test matches and played in a One Day International (ODI) cricket game before the Kargil War again put bilateral relations in deep freeze. Vajpayee’s peace initiative led to India touring Pakistan after a gap of almost 15 years. Subsequent exchange tours were held in 2005 and 2006 before the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks led to the suspension of India’s planned tour of Pakistan in 2009 and all future engagements in Pakistan. Earlier, another military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf visited India to watch a cricket match as part of cricket diplomacy.
The rise of domestic terrorism prevented Pakistan from hosting international cricket matches after an attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009 and the country was stripped of its co-host status for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. However, the two teams qualified for the first semifinal in Chandigrah and the Indian government invited the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the match along with his counterpart Dr. Manmohan Singh. Bilateral ties between India and Pakistan finally resumed when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) invited Pakistan to tour India for three ODIs and two T20s in December 2012. The three ODIs were held in New Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai while Ahmadabad and Bangalore hosted two Twenty20 fixtures.
A very recent encounter between the two teams was in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 where India defeated Pakistan. And what was the reaction of Pakistani cricket fans? Angry, disappointed, dejected, furious and abusive are just some of the words to describe what they were feeling after the “disappointing performance,” as they said, of their team. The selectors and players had been alleged of match fixing in the past. And what was the impact? Nothing but mistrust and ill feelings!
The India-Pakistan cricket matches have offered opportunities for cricket diplomacy as a means to improve relations between the two countries by allowing heads of state to exchange visits and cricket followers from either country to travel to the other to watch the matches, but the question is: Has cricket diplomacy between India and Pakistan been successful? Of course it has eased tense relations temporarily, but could not prove as an effective tool for stable peace between the two rival nations although cricket diplomacy has great potential.
Sports diplomacy for peace
Sports diplomacy has the potential to bring people closer, bridge differences, promote communication and understanding and not the least contribute to lasting peace, as the UN Secretary General’s 2006 report emphasizes. But, to achieve all these goals, we must consider cricket as just a sport and develop a spirit of sportsmanship. As far as Pakistan and India are concerned, cricket diplomacy is more relevant than ever and can play a greater role for lasting peace in the region by changing our mindset. We must consider “batting for peace” opposed to “war on the cricket pitch.”