The ICC Cricket World Cup had a record viewership of approximately 2.2 billion fans worldwide, with 67.6 million from India alone.
Why is this relevant?
We all know cricket is a religion, and in the Semi-finals of the most prestigious tournament in the game, India faced Pakistan. It was a reduction of a large-scale, protracted, and seemingly intractable conflict onto a sports field. The implications of this match will last a long time, and it’s time to capitalize, it’s time to talk.
The sporting encounter was hyped for days, with newspaper headlines screaming about the “showdown.” Cricket diplomacy was at its’ best when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh extended invitations to the Pakistani President and Prime Minister. PM Yusuf Raza Gilani accepted the invitation, and what followed were media histrionics about these important men watching the game together. Here’s one cartoonist’s depiction: http://kish.in/what-more-do-you-want-4-lives-to-sachin/.
There was endless hypothesizing about the effect of the interaction on relations between the two nations, on the fact that the Indian PM Manmohan Singh had made a mistake in extending the investigation, that Gilani should never have accepted the invitation, that the security risks had never been higher, that India would lose the match on purpose, perhaps even that there would be a decision on Kashmir, and a large scale unification, and so on and so forth to the point of being utterly ridiculous.
Pundits seriously considered India’s stance on terror. They theorized that the big-name interaction that was taking place between the Prime Ministers would destabilize or otherwise jeopardize the smaller scale talks taking place between negotiators on a more regular basis. This was the most valid concern.
Still, the Cricket World Cup ended on April 2. India beat Sri Lanka to win the cup, euphoria was widespread, and that was that.
But there’s the problem. Now is the time for the South Asian nations to capitalize on all the good will that was generated. India and Pakistan need to reform visa rules, open more lines of communication and transport, and, perhaps most importantly, discuss Kashmir. The Kashmir issue has been contentious for decades. There has been back and forth, but the hope of reaching a peaceful decision has felt slim since the Kargil War in 1999. While India and Pakistan need to place talks of terror, transport, and prisoner exchange on the negotiating table, Kashmir needs to be on the agenda.
The World Cup is also a lesson in hype and attention span. We need to stay focused, and not allow ourselves to lose sight of the bigger picture. Know Your Vote is making sure to stay focused. We’re working on expanding political awareness and generating civil discourse. We’re also trying to keep the government focused, and we want your help. We can do this by making our voices heard.
You can join the movement by joining our facebook page, following us on twitter and getting your friends to join too! It would really help us to have more discussions on our page, so that we know what matters to you. That will help Know Your Vote manage its focus, and direct the government’s attention to yours.