It was wrong to leave Pakistani cricketers out

It is in India’s interests to be the subcontinent’s talent magnet

If you have been reading this blog for some time you might have noticed that The Acorn has consistently been against any measure that falsely conveys an impression that Pakistan is no longer a sponsor of international terrorism in general and proxy-war against India in particular. That is the reason why this blog has opposed using a cricket series in Pakistan to initiate a ‘peace process’. And that was the motivation behind the April 2005 online banner campaign against inviting General Musharraf for a cricket match.

No to Musharraf - April 2007 campaign
The "No to Musharraf" campaign - April 2005

India must resolutely work towards the dismantling and eventual destruction of the Pakistani military-jihadi complex. Well-meaning but strategically unsound moves—from officially contrived ‘peace processes’ to grotesque media campaigns—are counterproductive towards this end. Even serious diplomatic dialogue with the Pakistani government is unlikely to lead to anything productive, given the chronic powerlessness of the civilian government and the unremitting hostility of the military establishment.

But does this mean India should close its doors to individual Pakistanis who might wish to travel, trade, work or study in India? Not at all.

It is in India’s interests to be a magnet for the subcontinent—and the world’s—talent. This has historically been a source of India’s civilisational strength, and will continue to enrich the country in the future. Indeed, like it is for the United States, openness to foreigners can be a competitive advantage for India, because China will find it much harder to do so. Also India is the only nation that has the capability to remain open to victims of cultural illiberalism and persecution (even if competitive intolerance has diminished its capability to do so). Now, given the nature of the threat from Pakistan, there is good reason to be extremely careful in issuing visas, but it would be strategically counterproductive to close doors indiscriminately.

That is why it was wrong of Indian Premier League teams to drop all Pakistani players from the competition—if there was a risk of their not turning up due to bilateral tensions, then that risk could well have been reflected in the price during the auction. [Note: I am only interested in cricket when India wins by a large margin. But my INI co-blogger Dhruva Jaishankar is a genuine cricket fan. Read his take at Polaris]

Just as it is wishful thinking to believe that the Pakistani military-jihadi complex is interested in a settlement with India on anything other than its own terms, it is self-defeating to turn away influential and talented Pakistanis from developing vested interests in India’s success. Unilaterally dropping trade restrictions and unilaterally allowing Pakistani cricketers to play in India is entirely consistent with weakening the military-jihadi complex.

38 thoughts on “It was wrong to leave Pakistani cricketers out”

  1. Nitin: Re. “…it is self-defeating to turn away influential and talented Pakistanis…”

    I am not so sure…How many of these influential and talented Pakistanis have raised their voice against the Jihadi mindset (or indeed the military-jihadi complex) that dominates the average Pakistani’s perception of India?

    As for “It is in India’s interests to be a magnet for the subcontinent—and the world’s—talent”, yes, indeed…but it is also in India’s interest to act…and send a strong signal when certain lines are crossed, rather than to continue in “business as usual” mode.

    On this note, you and your readers may find this piece written by Pritish Nandy in 1998(!) interesting:

  2. Shantanu,

    How many of these influential and talented Pakistanis have raised their voice against the Jihadi mindset (or indeed the military-jihadi complex) that dominates the average Pakistani’s perception of India?

    And what will it say to ordinary Pakistanis that when their influential countrymen (even those silent against the military-jihadi complex) have to go to India to earn a better living?

  3. Please explain why an Indian business should accommodate the PCB? The PCB pulled players from IPL2 on grounds of safety concerns.
    They should have been pro-active and certified that they think that India is safe for their players and will not pull out again. Instead, we see a whole lot of dillydallying where the Pakistani players had to be accommodated by IPL on special request.

  4. The market forces reward those that do not disturb the market discipline. In this case, the bidders had not bid for the Pakistani cricketers. That’s the market’s way of indicating risk aversion. They were not left out or prevented from being involved in the bidding process. The bidders genuinely steered clear of them.

    There was also the issue that the PCB might call them back mid-season with the threat of a career ban looming large if they didn’t or being blackballed by the IPL teams if they did.

    I agree with your sentiments here but you can hardly blame the bidders here. They are running a nascent enterprise and any uncertainty regarding player availability can wreak havoc on the season’s plans. They have to bid smartly. And bid smartly they did.

  5. Nitin,

    I can’t believe you missed major point in this debate. i.e. The Headly Syndrome. Bhatt family got burned terribly for good for their unusual sucking-up to Pakis..even by peacenik standards.. Now in today’s political environment who would want to be caught with a Paki in their bed(most Paki players are Tableeg Jamaat & Jamat-ul-Dawa charity workers..with their “peaceful world view”). ISI-LeT’s clever use of rich polished ppl to penetrate Bollywood circles have for good reason raised a red-rag for everything Paki. Another thingy is the 7 star private parties that VIP Pakis go in our Bollywood would be terribly impossible for our intelligence ppl to penetrate those hotels and expensive private parties to keep an eye on them. Again, Indian super elite who were hitherto escaped the jihadist medicine got an up and close look at what ordinary Indians on the streets (getting blown up)were getting on 26/11. No wonder.

  6. Another thing is PCB is a military machine..and its good that it go bankrupt..
    I am totally ok with Paki models and actresses…(female) since their misogynist environment is getting worse..and ours getting better. I would be very concerned getting Paki men roaming around in our hotels and restaurants.
    Again, are assuming that Pakistan is going to be there for ever beside India as our neighbour which I think is far fetched..I wouldnt bet on it 10-20 yrs down the line.. I think China,Iran and Balochis are the ones we should cultivate friendship since China,Iran ppl are talented,normal and peaceful..but hijacked by military-ideological syndicate. Taming Paki Punjabis and driving sanity into their heads is a colossal waste of time and energy.

  7. What is the exact process through which more Pakistani cricketers in India benefit us/ weaken the military-jihadi complex?

    That these influential and talented Pakistanis will somehow influence the M-J complex as it is in their self-interest to see a strong India? Hasn’t that always been the case for the average/influential Pakistani citizen?

    The M-J complex does not really rely on public support. It may whet public opinion against India when a pseudo-democratic govt. is in place but it does not live and die or draw its strength from its control over the hearts and minds of average or influential/talented Pakistanis.

    If that were the case, ‘Aman ki Asha’ would be a resounding success.

    One can actually argue that not picking them is more likely to coax them into influencing the M-J complex. Otherwise, they can come here, make their money, mouth sweet nothings about how politics and cricket should be separated and go back home. Who cares what the M-J complex does as long as they can make their money?

  8. Nitin.

    I am not an intellectual at your level but basic economics that I studied tells me that money is fungible.
    What do talented Pakistanis in India do? They make money out of “average Indian’s” money ..where would this money go? This goes into the Military -Jihadi complex in the form of taxes, donations etc.
    The best way to destroy a rogue country/terrorist organization is to scuttle its economy and the money flow.
    Your view that talented Pakistanis should be welcome into India is similar to US thinking that pumping billions into Pakistan would make Pakistan less rogue.

  9. Nitin,

    I whole-heartedly agree with your assessment. Such pettiness brings India down to Pakistan’s level.

  10. The problem is with the design of the auction. This is not like the auction of IPL1 where $5 million was allowed by each team and teams needed to buy their full lineup.

    Here 65 players were being auctioned, but there were a grand total of only 12 spots. Many teams had only one spot open and were pretty decided in whom they wanted to buy. So, buying say Afridi for a lower amount would not be a factor as he would still block one place.

    In such a case, teams would not want to take a chance on a Pakistani player as they are not sure they will even be able to enter the country at the time of the IPL. Also, with Pakistani players, the security required would be higher and the team would be vulnerable to attacks from the like of the Thakeray’s.

    Nobody wants to take that kind of hassle, especially when other good players are available.

  11. “It is in India’s interests to be a magnet for the subcontinent—and the world’s—talent. ”

    Where do you draw the line regarding where Pakistani talent starts and where it ends?

    Peshawari Carpet Weavers –> Auto Mechanics–>Engineering Graduates –> IT Professionals –>Artists/Singers–>Cricketers–>Squash Players

    Personally I think, Franchise owners shied away from Pakistani players because they thought Pakistanis were bad for their image and would not have gone well with the paying public!

  12. Nerus:
    “Such pettiness brings India down to Pakistan’s level.”

    Absolutely, if thats what it means to vanquish the enemy!

  13. Well there is a money is fungible principle. The crores rewarded to pakistanis would ultimately end up in pakistani banks and maybe to donations to mosques and from there rerouted into the jihad networks and from there into attacks on Indians.

    I think pakistanis not playing here or pakistanis not allowed to work anywhere in India is a good beginning towards standing together. Running shows like aman ki aasha when there is no revocation of jihad against India and where Indian soldiers are being targeted daily on the borders is the greatest obscenity one can think of.

    It was good to see some display of nationalism by our multi billionaire elites. For a change.

  14. Interestingly Bangladesh’s lone participant at the auction Shakib Al Hasan (nr. 1 in the ICC ODI all-rounder rankings) was also left out with no one bidding for him. It must have been a deliberate decision.

  15. I completely agree with Shantanu’s view above. And as for this statement from Nitin,

    “And what will it say to ordinary Pakistanis that when their influential countrymen (even those silent against the military-jihadi complex) have to go to India to earn a better living?”

    Pakistani artists (musicians, actors, sportsmen) have always been coming to India in search of greener pastures and a better life. Has this ever made any difference to the mindset of the ordinary Pakistanis? They still volunteer themselves for Jihadi activities against India. Why do you think it should make a difference now?

    And why is no one looking at this decision from a purely business sense? Why should the IPL franchise be forced to ruin its financials just so they can appear to be politically correct? Why not give them the benefit of the doubt? That they acted in the best interest of business and nothing more?

  16. rezwan:
    Are you suggesting that IPL3 targetted both Pakistan AND Bangladesh? Seriously, arent you overrating us Indians?

  17. “Indeed, like it is for the United States, openness to foreigners can be a competitive advantage for India, because China will find it much harder to do so.”

    Openness to foreigners gave US __competitive__ advantage? To be sure, it increased the purchasing power of the American public, it also helped US economy in several ways, but isn’t it “openness to China” that has made China poised to kick the ass of US in so many respects? Then again, as previous commentators have raised, the possibility of our money reaching their Jihadis.

    What is more, doesn’t trade with Pakistan that benefits Pakistan contradict your statement several months ago that India’s aim should be to create a bleeding Pakistan on the verge of collapse but not quite collapsed, until it stops its cross-border terrorism with India?

  18. Frog,

    No. On the contrary having influential Pakistanis depend on India’s success will give us leverage that we do not have.

  19. It was weird. There was an understanding to avoid the Pak players. If such was the intention, it could have been conveyed to them in advance and much embarrassment could have been avoided. The players would be right to think somebody went out of the way to insult them – besides, as somebody on a cricket blog in TOI wrote, they are the world champs and have several high-rated players, much higher than the ones bid for and purchased.

    Mean and petty was the signal sent out.


  20. Nitin,

    The process through which we can get influential Pakistanis to impact the military-jehadi complaex is this :

    1) The influential Pakistanis (IPs) develop monetary/financial interests in India
    2) India has the credible threat that these interests may not last if the terrorism does not stop
    3) IPs pull their strings with the political system in Pakistan to try and ensure that the terrorism stops.

    This, of course, assumes that IPs can pull strings with the Pakistani political/military system – which is unlikely. However, let’s assume that it is true.

    Now, how does one have the credible threat that the financial interests of IPs may not last? This is a threat of low magnitude in an iterated game over multiple periods. What does one do to have a credible threat over time? Simple- carry out the threat in one period, revoke it the next. This is precisely what we have done.

    What happens if we don’t develop point 2 and simply strengthen point 1? We make it easier for the IPs to develop a ‘mere baap ka kya jaata hai’ approach to terrorist strikes in India. What are the chances that the people in India that they are directly dealing with will get hurt as a result of these strikes? Minimal. So, it is eminently possible, if one was to be uncharitable, that some of the IPs may internally even celebrate the terrorist strikes as divine retribution or something and carry on their financial interests.

    Pakistani cricketers already have their money interests in India. Now, we have also carried out the threat. This will ensure that over time, our threat for doing something similar later on is credible. Yes, we could allow Pakistani businessmen to open trade relations with India. Carry out a similar threat sometime later, and then revoke it.

  21. The captain of pakistan team once represented the entire muslim world…and whats wrong in rejecting these terrorist sympathizers ?

  22. Nitin,

    There are two issues here:

    1. None of the teams bid for the Pakistani players because the government could not guarantee they would get visas etc. Hence, no one was willing to take the gamble on saturating their salary caps with a player who might not be available to play.

    So the question becomes should the Indian gov’t have provided this guarantee? I cannot they how they can. As Pakistani nationals they need to go through the same rigorous security checks – just being cricketers doesn’t exempt them. What would have happened if there was a red-flag raised during the visa application for one of the players? Would the gov’t then issue a visa anyway because they guaranteed it ?

    2. I totally agree with your point that attracting the best talent in any field will help India’s competitive advantage. This is what made US such a economic (and perhaps therefore a military power). However, there is a difference between top talents who come and settle in India, spend their money here, and provide a tangible benefit and four cricketers who come for two months to participate in a tamasha. It is not as if having a few extra Pakistani players is going to improve India’s cricketing abilities or sell more products during the advertising bonanza that accompanies the IPL.

  23. Quite a few of the posts above talk about the hoi polloi Pakistani not being in a position to force MJC’s hand and I admit this is not something that would’ve happened if the Pakistani players had been accepted into the IPL. There are reasons aplenty for why better trade and economic ties will eventually contribute to empowering the individual in Pakistan against the MJC.

    At this time I am only reminded of an incident narrated to me about a Pakistani Army officer’s son who was denied admission into a b-school in Pakistan because, due to his fauji background, he answered in the negative, an interview question regarding possibility of doing business with India.

  24. NotReallyAnonymous wrote:
    “There are reasons aplenty for why better trade and economic ties will eventually contribute to empowering the individual in Pakistan against the MJC.”

    NRA, Better trade and economic ties will only make Pakistani citizens richer — it will not provide Pakistanis with any leverage over the Pakistani army or the MJC who have heavy weapons.

    The above suggestion basically says: “Provide the pakistani citizen with money and trade, and they will be able to develop the military capability to take on the MJC”. I would like to see some explain this bit of “logic” because I fail to see it.

    Unless one can show the exact path by which rich pakistani citizens can take on well-armed, well-trained, and highly-motivated MJC cadre AND WIN IN THE END, all these claims that “better trade and economic ties” empower the average pakistani against the MJC fall apart on minimal scrutity for being reality-compliant.

  25. NRA, I will agree that theoretically speaking, doing business the people who India does with are very same army brass that control the MJC could be considered “leverage”, but is that really true?

    These Pakistani army people are masters at the art of double-speak/blackmail and generally wholesome international criminal behaviour…….which is clear when we see how they have screwed their own fellow countrymen in Pakistan of a future.

    The Feudals and their extended families own and run the country, live in opulence in gated communities with thousands of acres of arable land belonging to Pakistani public and just taken……while the average pakistani on the street is hooked on Heroin and eating his daily meal from the garbage. These pakistani army people/Faujis who can treat their own fellow countryman with such contempt are not likely us much-hated “Hindus” (means Indians in two-nation-theory-ese)….are they?

  26. Correction to last sentence: These pakistani army people/Faujis who can treat their own fellow countryman with such contempt and disdain are not likely treat us much-hated Indians any better, are they?

  27. Nitin,

    I have tried to post comments a couple of times now but they are not going through. Can you pls check what is going on? I am of course assuming you do not censor people for political opinions.


  28. What is common to the “MJC”, the “civil society” the “hoi polloi”, etc etc… of Pakistan? Their hatred and condescension of the yahud, the christians, and the unholy “wicked-bania” butparast hindus.

    Just to assume that rich pakistanis, who got rich because of doing business India, will NOT contribute money to the Jihadis (willy nilly) is not only naive but suicidal.

    Here is an simple imaginable scenario–
    a) we keep doing business with the pakistani business class
    b) they keep contributing (or even forced to contribute) to the MJC, ISI, LET, JUD, or whatever fancy names you give…
    c) we keep getting attacked
    d) the Pakistani business class keeps claiming innocence.
    e) go to step a)

    Genuis! Here, take my money, buy a gun, and shoot me in the head. If I am still alive, here is some more money…

  29. Agree.

    In fact, if we really wanted to rip Pakistan’s heart out, we would attract their best and brightest and keep them in India over the long haul. Institute the equivalent of an H1-B for the most talented Pakistanis so they can stay in India for extended periods of time. They’re most unlikely to be the bomb-coolie variety.

  30. To continue, something caught my attention yesterday from the article:
    why china and america will clash

    “The US has accepted – even welcomed – China’s emergence as a giant economic power because American policymakers convinced themselves that economic opening would lead to political liberalisation in China.”

    “Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush firmly believed that free trade and, in particular, the information age would make political change in China irresistible.”

    But this didnt happen. China is still a one-party Leninist state with no freedom of press.

    Why should Pakistan change then?

  31. One security concern most of you didnt explain is the entry of a terrorist in the guise of a fan. The GOI will be criticized if visas to Pak fans are turned down, and at the same time some hundreds of men crossing the borders by land or air a few are likely to stay back to join the sleeper cell fimly encamped in major cities all over the nation. Its not so much providing security to players but it has a lot to do with curbing entry of terrorists on genuine visas. As of today, many Pak artists are living in Mumbai to earn a good living, Adnan Sami comes to mind quickly. None of them had left in a hurry, Thackarey or not.On a side note 17 visas were issued by indian consulates already. So it has everything to do with the 8 teams and their managers.and nothing to do with the Delhi govt. How can you force a bollywood producer to give a role in any film, its upto the production team, not up to the Govt really.What did Pak do to please Indian govt or people so far may I ask? Former cricket star and present politician Imran Khan went on badmouthing India with his conspiracy theories non stop. Money and stardom doesnt bring any change in the thinking pattern of Paks.

  32. libertarian:
    “They’re most unlikely to be the bomb-coolie variety.”

    Libertarian, To be foolproof, they need to be psychologically evaluated for any strains of jihadi thinking in a double-blinded manner, because we can be assured that they are no fools and they are clever enough to lie to you if they know you are testing them for any ideological red flags.

    For example, “talented pakistani” Shahid Afridi is a member of Tablighi Jamaat and his cousin was killed at the hands of the Indian armed forces as a member of the Lashkar-e-toiba, and Shahid himself is not shy about speaking his mind on what his views on jihad are.

    Furthermore, just because a Pakistani is talented and fine outwardly, and speaks the language of tolerance and reasonableness, all that may not mean much — Daoud Gilani/David Headley the Pakistani-American who was a key part of 26/11 is a perfect example of the kind of Pakistanis I am referring to. Even now Rahul Bhatt seems to be paying double for his naivete in trusting Dawood/David and working for Al Qaeda against India without his knowledge.

    Clearly India needs to filter such people out in case Pakistani want to flee Pakistan at some point in the future. That said, there are clearly artists and sportspeople in Pakistan who could certain use a break to get out of Pakistan, and they would probably pass the psychological examination with flying colours.

    Note: Tablighi Jamaat is the ideological grandmother of Al Qaeda and all the world’s jihadis…they call themselves a religious charity but they are the people who provide the religious logic required for a normal person to turn into a jihadi.

  33. SRM: I was referring to a mass brain drain from there rather than the Shahid Afridi variety. We already see a mass of Bangladeshis streaming into India for economic reasons. With the interminable chaos in Pakenstein it may not be long before the Pakjabis and Sindhis admit they’re getting shafted in the Citadel of Islam and look for greener pastures in much larger numbers. The policy challenge would be to allow the skilled ones in and make sure the unskilled refugees stay back home. We need to emulate not the US – get the skilled ones without the tarring brush of racism – not the UK – shelling out government services to a most unproductive population.

  34. One can choose to be right. One can choose to be happy. They are neither mutually exclusive nor do they always go hand in hand. Life is about achieving balance between the 2.

    As much as I can see the rational of your logic, the balance lies in not using a singular logic all the times and giving oneself maneuvering room depending on whom we are dealing with.

    I neither feel sorry for any Pakistani player nor feel the need for IPL franchises to change their ways – AS LONG AS such cartel-like behavior (not my choice of word) was NOT dictated by the Indian Government.

    Pragmatic bhevarior requires reality check for Idealistic views. Everytime Pakistan got even a penny extra to spare, it has spent it on building up offensive and defensive capabilities against India. Case in point – aid from US during previous & current Afghan war has gone toward defense budget. Even when Pakistan has no money to improve civic amenities for its own citizens, it funds terrorists to bleed India by thousand cuts.

    Thus, what may be a very rational logic in most cases (feeding milk to hungry) may not be applicable in all cases (feeding milk to a hungry poisonous snake)

    I wish some IPL franchises had openly argued that Pakistani players on their team in the current environment would not go well with the image they want to maintain & that they would have incurred financial losses due to reduced attendance adn TV viewership from their target audience and hence should have announced even before the auction that they would not be bidding for Pakistani players.

    Only bhondu intellectuals apply same principles in ALL cases and to each instance separately. Smart people look at the big picture. In the bigger skim of things, Pakistani players are merely collateral damage.

  35. Could it be that a certain Mr. Tata was mighty peeved about 26/11 and sent word to his tight buddies? (Read, all of India’s business houses).

    IPL has added to MEA options

    Also, why are we forgetting the Pakistan cricket teams little beard revolution?
    Preaching games

    3 humorous takes on the issue.
    <a href=";

    Shahid Afridi threatens


  36. I would be very very careful about dealing with Pakistanis. There is a certain toxicity factor attached to them. Consider that even the “land of the free” and the world’s “oldest democracy” is profiling them.Will you ever thump your chest and say “Some of my best friends are Pakistanis!”?. If you said that at an airport, you would be subjected to a full body cavity search.

    Sorry, but all Pakistanis should be treated as potential terrorists. There is no need to play nice, especially when it could be fatal.

    PS Remember that when Mugabe took over in Zimbabwe, at least one black cricketer spoke out, at grave risk to his life. I don’t see this Pakistani bunch opposing their appalling overlords.

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