Wickets and Wariness

India-Pakistan relations – a challenge at the best of times, and in the doldrums since the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008 – received an unexpected boost last month from an unlikely source: cricket. Though the thaw has involved no substantive policy decisions, dialogue might be its own reward.

NEW DELHI – India-Pakistan relations – a challenge at the best of times, and in the doldrums since the terrorist attacks on Mumbai of November 2008 – received an unexpected boost last month from an unlikely source: cricket. When the two countries became semi-finalists in the game’s quadrennial World Cup, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited his Pakistani counterpart, Yusuf Reza Gilani, to watch the game with him in Mohali, with talks over dinner. Though the resulting thaw has involved no substantive policy decisions, Singh has nonetheless changed the narrative of the countries’ relations, and seized control of a stalemated process.

Some Indian critics are less than enthused. India’s government suspended talks with Pakistan after the horrific attacks on Mumbai. By talking again at such a high level, despite there being no significant progress in Pakistan in bringing the perpetrators to justice, India, the critics charge, has in effect surrendered to Pakistani intransigence

Indeed, the critics point out that the wide-ranging and comprehensive talks agreed to by the two sides are the old “composite dialogue” under a new label. It was this very dialogue that India justifiably called off after Mumbai: there was no point talking to people whose territory and institutions were being used to attack and kill Indians.

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