India V Pakistan in Cricket Diplomacy

As I write, Pakistan is batting 106-3, with a rate of 4.13.  And I know what all that means, thanks to a cricket lesson in Dhaka by one of the co-authors of this book.

The political backdrop today’s match is covered well in the New York Times, which writes that the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan are sharing a box for the day-long World Cup semifinal game.

For the Indian subcontinent, where few things stir public passions more than cricket and politics, the twinning of such a high-stakes match with such high-stakes diplomacy has created an irresistible spectacle. Across the subcontinent, millions of people stopped work to watch the match on TV. India has ordered a sweeping security clampdown in Mohali, including the closure of the city’s airspace during the match.

After India won the toss, its team made a brisk start, with its star batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, leading the attack before he was given out after scoring 85 runs. India scored 260 runs; then it was Pakistan’s turn to send in its batters.

Mr. Singh’s invitation — it was also extended to the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, who declined — is another example of how Mr. Singh has repeatedly tried to advance diplomacy with Pakistan, often over the resistance of the Indian political opposition and even some members of his own Indian National Congress Party. In New Delhi, Mr. Singh’s overture has drawn a mixed reaction: some analysts praise his determination to push forward while others call the invitation a political stunt that risks undermining the lower-level talks that began this week.

“It has caught everybody by surprise,” said Brahma Chellaney, a strategic affairs analyst in New Delhi. “In diplomacy, you have to do the preparatory work first if you want to have a result. This sounds like an impulsive move.”

It is also worth noting how security issues have affected cricket in Pakistan.   The 2011 World Cup was supposed to be co-hosted by Pakistan, but a 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore lead the International Cricket Council to strip Pakistan of its co-host status.