There are many things common between India and Pakistan like,languages, literature, music, religious traditions, and thousands of years of togetherness under local rulers and competing empires. There is only one issue that despite thiscommonality makes them distant neighbors: the Kashmir issue.
It is the dispute over Kashmir region that sharpens differences and blurs this commonness. However, the sports of cricket, which hasdeep roots in the subcontinent as a cultural tradition, is one other strand that weaves the peoples of India and Pakistan together. Cashing in on this cultural tradition, leaders of the two countries have used Cricket Diplomacy to thaw iciness in their relations.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to the pleasant surprise of many, invited his Pakistani counterpart to watch the World Cup 2011 semi-final between the two countries' teams in Mohali, India, as part of Cricket Diplomacy. And Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani has concurred to watch the match alongside Mr. Singh.
It is not the first time for India and Pakistan to use cricket for diplomacy; it started in early 1980s when Indian and Pakistani armed forces had been eyeball to eyeball with each other. The Indian Express newspaper says:
"Cricket diplomacy is now very much part of Indo-Pak diplomatic tradition. In 1987, Gen. Zia ul Haque invited himself to witness a cricket match in India as part of his effort to defuse tensions following a military confrontation. Gen. Musharraf did much the same in April 2005, when he wrangled an invitation from Dr. Singh to witness an Indo-Pak cricket match in Delhi.The talks during that visit produced the basis for a serious bilateral negotiation on resolving the dispute over Jammu & Kashmir."
In 2005, Mr. Singh told the Indian Parliament that nothing brings the people of the subcontinent together more than our love for cricket and Bollywood. His predecessor Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, before sending them to Pakistan, advised the Indian cricket players: "Dil bhi jeeto!" [Win their hearts too].
Many commentators see the Indian Prime Minister's invite a smart diplomatic initiative through cricket undertaken after India and Pakistan resumed the dialogue process stalled in November 2008 when the Indian financial capital Mumbai was hit by terrorist attacks.
One commentator has rightly pointed out the potency of Cricket Diplomacy by observing: "Overnight, the mood of the media and the people, at least in Pakistan, has turned towards India." What politicians, generals and diplomats could not achieve in years, Cricket Diplomacy has done it in ways.
It is now up to the politicians to catch on the positive public sentiments and move on normalizing relations between India and Pakistan. Public Diplomacy does not resolve thorny issues, but it does build confidence and trust between peoples of two countries. When diplomats and politicians talk to each other in an atmosphere of trust, they can reach an understanding on issues that bedevil their relations.