The on-going cricket series between India and Pakistan has managed to do something that no government has managed in the last 50 years. Bring the people of India and Pakistan together. The Indian cricket team and fans have been given a complete red carpet welcome in Pakistan.
Pakistanis in general know more about India, because they are big fans of Indian television programmes and Hindi movies. Unfortunately, there is so much anti-Pakistan propaganda in India, that most Indians associate Pakistan with partition-related violence and jihadis. Indians who read Pakistani newspapers are convinced that Pakistanis aren’t interested in peace and only want to grab Kashmir and dismantle India.
Keeping these reservations in mind, many Indians purchased tickets for the one-day cricket series. The warmth and the affection of the Pakistani public has been really unbelievable. The match in Karachi set the precedent. Pakistani fans cheered every Indian run and many were simultaneously waving Indian and Pakistani flags. When the match, which was one of the greatest games in the history of the sport, ended, the Karachi crowd gave the victorious Indian team a standing ovation.
The Indian cricket fans were treated like honoured guests, wherever they went. The warmth and love from the Pakistani public in the streets of Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Lahore, really touched the hearts of around 8000 Indian cricket fans. The Indian public is no longer seeing Pakistanis as barbarians. In fact many Indians are ashamed that they haven’t treated Pakistanis visitors with the same kind of warmth, on earlier tours. Indian crowds have been far more partisan, unsporting and to put it mildly “patriotic”.
The stories keep pouring into the Indian media about the hospitality in Pakistan. There have been reports of discounts on hotel rooms, taxi and rickshaw drivers refusing to accept money. Free tea everywhere and an unlimited number of dinner invitations. So where are the anti-Hindu, anti-Indian elements, one might ask?
The politicians of India and Pakistan have been regularly poisoning the people with lies to keep the flames of hatred burning. Without hatred and mistrust, the religious fundamentalists on both sides of the border would not survive. The politicians of India and Pakistan have continued the British policy of divide and rule. Usually when there is a domestic problem in either India or Pakistan, the government tries to distract the people and diverts their attention to the ‘enemy’ across the border.
This cricket series has broken the ice, between the people of India and Pakistan. The religious fanatics and jingoists have now lost their credibility. The peace process has a gained a tremendous amount of momentum. The people of India and Pakistan need to seize the initiative and build turn new friendships into long-term relationships.
The common man in the sub-continent is simply sick of the decades-old hostility. The younger-generation, though brainwashed by blatantly biased history textbooks, wants peace, friendship and even brotherhood. Indian and Pakistani students in England, America, Canada and Australia gel well with each other and realise that petty leaders have kept the people in the subcontinent apart. As the older generation dies, the wounds of partition are healing and the sub-continent is heading for a new dawn. It’s incredible what a sporting event has done!