India vs. Pakistan: 'Cricket Diplomacy at its Best'
The biggest news in South Asia last week centered on the final matches of the 2011 Cricket World Cup. It was jointly organized and played host to by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka — and they did a fabulous job. The cricket craze in South Asia cannot be compared with any other part of the world as the sport is followed with an uncommon passion and zeal.
India deservedly won the coveted trophy, beating Sri Lanka in the final match after winning over traditional cricket rival Pakistan in the semifinal. (The fact that three South Asian teams reached the last four stage in the competition was another landmark.) The India-Pakistan semifinal was aptly dubbed by some observers in South Asia as the 'mother of all cricket battles'.
In a pleasant surprise, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to travel to India to watch the match with him. It was cricket diplomacy at its best. The visit renewed the momentum in bilateral relations, and brief statements from both leaders at the end of the match reiterated that they want to resolve all issues between the two states through dialogue and discussion. The people of India and Pakistan must be thankful to their cricket teams for providing the region the great opportunity to jump-start the stalled peace process.
Hassan Abbas is an Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow.