What was the need for Vajpayee to agree to send the Indian cricket team to Pakistan? Instead of managing expectations, announcing India would not only play but also tour Pakistan this spring kindled unrealistic hopes and put a lid on realistic fears. Lets face it, the cricket team was used as a pawn in a political game; which shows the Indian government’s regard for the welfare of Indian cricket and cricketers. It has shown itself quite willing to risk the lives of national icons as a concession on the negotiating table.
The Pakistan cricket board is near broke. So desperate are they that they have even got their affiliated jehadis to announce that there will be no ‘hits’ against the Indian team. For them an India-Pak series is great chance to fill their empty coffers, and also a neat advertising trick. Hey! If India can tour Pakistan, what do you guys (England, Australia etc) have to complain? And now that there is a chance that the tour will be postponed, the PCB is going to politicise the issue, not necessarily contributing to the cause of Indo-Pak amity.
But the biggest whammy comes from the BJP’s keen political analysis – what if India does play Pakistan, and gets a sound thrashing, just before an election where the ‘feel good factor’ is the main selling point? Scared of a negative electoral impact the BJP is backtracking on sending the team ahead of the polls, causing the Pakistanis to complain, again putting pressure on the ‘peace process’ atmospherics.
Knowing the sentiments it creates, it is yet too early for India to play a bilateral series with Pakistan. Can the government handle a law-and-order issue should communal riots break out in sensitive hotspots – that too, just before an election. Agreeing to play Pakistan was irresponsible. Agreeing to send Saurav Ganguly and team to a country where the President himself has to rely on American bodyguards is reckless folly.
If the choice is between making Vajpayee appear a great statesman by sending the team to an unsafe Pakistan and ensuring the safety of any 15 Indian citizens, I would still choose the latter.