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September 23, 2008

Samir Chopra

Why India is not Pakistan

Samir Chopra

A couple of days ago on Different Strokes, I wrote that it would be fun to start talking about the playing of cricket again. Today, I'm going to ignore my advice and talk about cricket's political context. The recent bombing in Islamabad has forced my hand.

Folks might remember that Australia's decision to tour India had resulted in extremely loud denunciations of its "hypocrisy" in choosing to go to one country where bombs go off and making excuses to not go to another where bombs go off as well

I'd suggest the Aussies are on reasonably good ground, if what guided their decisions is their overall perception of the countries. There is a quite simple reason why teams tour India rather than Pakistan. Pakistan has been in the headlines (literally) for a very, very long time with regards to its internal political instability and violence. Think about all the things the West associates with Pakistan since 1979: Afghanistan, the mujahideen, refugee camps, military coups, the Taliban, the ISI, assassinations, the wild Northwest, fear of nuclear weapons falling into jihadi hands, Dr Khan's proliferation network, the Daniel Pearl beheading, the list goes on. And when a country is led by Army generals for a long time, it is quite difficult to remove the aura of political instability around it. Pakistan's problems have been on the West's radar for a very long time and are associated with a set of issues that the West is obsessed about. No one in the US or UK gives a hoot about the PWG in India or violence in the North-East or wherever, no matter how many Indians die. The patron of the Pakistani government, the US, has elevated and demoted Pakistan simultaneously to problem child and critical geo-political player.

And since 911, Pakistan cannot stay out of the news even if it wanted to. Pakistan's violence appears systemic, and embedded in a larger narrative about the "unstable, violent, Islamic world". India's violence appears sporadic, and discordant with a broader narrative about the rising economic superpowers of Asia. I live in the US and the constant stream of articles in the press about Pakistan's wild NorthWest, the ISI's implication in the activities of the Taliban, and the prospects of its civil government falling next year to another military coup is supplemented by articles about India's corporations going on acquisition sprees, the growth rate of the Indian economy, Snoop Dogg going to Bollywood and so on. Under these circumstances, I'm a little surprised that so many people consider the Australians utter and total hypocrites. This is the information they read about on a daily basis. Why wouldn't their perceptions of the country in question be affected?

I'm willing to bet good money that more English and Aussie backpackers have visited India than Pakistan in the last seven years. Are they also all hypocrites? Are they all also getting fat checks from the BCCI when they alight from their flights at Delhi International Airport? What guided their decisions?

The clincher is in the comparison between how the Delhi and Islamabad bombings were covered. Delhi did not even make it to the front page of the New York Times. Heck, it was hard to find any coverage on it. But the Islamabad incident went to the front page and stayed there. Why? Because this is supposed evidence of Pakistan's vulnerability to the Al-Qaeda and so on and so forth. Delhi's bombings? Oh, the usual stuff the US can't care about. I wonder if the Presidential candidates even commented on it

Pakistan's violence is of interest to the West. It imagines its interests are implicated there. This brings attention. Plenty of it, and it ensures that the country acquires a scary aura. And honestly, if folks read that in the Pakistani capital, a 600 kilo payload of high-explosive can be transported in, assembled, and then driven around in a VIP area, then, well, what reassurance can the PCB provide to already apprehensive boards?

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Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by Numair Rahman on (September 25, 2008, 21:20 GMT)

Even accepting the fact that the author was not biased there are some facts that should be cleared. Terrorism is an act that is done in different places. What the west does is also an act of terrorism but the word peace is covered by it. I agree there has been bombings in Pakistan, but no crickets have ever been affected. Not that we should wait for one, but the Aussies were too hasty about the fact. The current turmoil is happening in Srilanka, India and many other places but it is a matter of national pride. Pakistan is the country that is suffering. They wont be playing a single test match in this year. This is simply unacceptable. The ICC should have arranged something for the PCB. India just being a lucrative nation has been able to attract everyone. All in all what ever has happened needs to be given another look.

Posted by Mirza on (September 25, 2008, 20:25 GMT)

A shallow, simplistic and ignorant assessment of the matter at hand. Sir, you should stay away from political analysis. Stick to cricket.

Posted by Ash on (September 25, 2008, 18:58 GMT)

Hold on a sec, why on earth mix cricket with politics i thought as an editor you'd use a little more common sense and keep your own personal feelings to yourself. Perception is subjective and not everyone will agree with the way you see things. You should have been at the very least a little more empathetic towards the current situation in Pakistan i.e the loss of revenue no teams touring etc. Its not about why teams tour India , its about not touring Pakistan citing unfortunately India. Had Austrailia Toured another country given same political situation than PCB would have cited them as an example. Its nothing personal against India and your article would suggest that you have it made it personal and you are teaching other Indians the same which is wrong. I think you ought to consider a career change. But thanks for letting us all know what you really think of Pakistan!

Posted by Vipul_patki on (September 25, 2008, 18:00 GMT)

The cricinfo followers from Pakistan are justifiably angry at the article but I guess the article is trying to show the westerners' perception rather than the author's. If Indian cricketers can complete more than one tour to Pakistan, then every other country is safe to do so. I sincerely hope that violence in Pakistan (and indeed in India as well) abates so that we can enjoy more criket.

Posted by Ram on (September 25, 2008, 17:55 GMT)

I am really sorry but I found the article in bad taste. It is clear that India is not safe. Period. For every Daniel Pearl we have a Graham Steines. For every Karachi blast we have a Delhi blast.

Posted by Vivek on (September 25, 2008, 17:55 GMT)

The author I believe has delivered this article in an extremely irresponsible manner. Given its tone, it is easy to misinterpret it as an India vs Pakistan issue which goes to show why one shouldn't write about politics if its not their forte. And regarding the comment posted above: "Perception is end result of profound thoughts & simple facts" -Perception is the end result of prejudice and information. If the information itself is prejudiced, you have a situation like this. Which is what I think Samir intended to portray all along but was let down by his eloquence :).

Posted by Arun Rajaram on (September 25, 2008, 16:20 GMT)

I am an Indian and I respect my country. At the same time I don't show any disrespect to any other country. It is ridiculous to say that India is safe when compared to Pakistan. No place is safe that way. Aussies were in England when the london bombings happened, they had their A team here when Delhi bombings happened, IPL saw jaipur bombings. I would say aussie board is biased, because their would have a bigger dent financially if they choose not to tour india. India hold the financial advantage, whereas pakistan doesn't. Not just Aussies but all other western countries who had expressed their concerns should look at themselves and ask a question whether they are living in the safest part of the world. I understand safety of players is utmost important, but at the same time you have to respect ICC's security reports too. If each of them have their own opinion then it's not good. It is high time that ICC takes strict actions against all these countries and penalize for their pull outs.

Posted by sg on (September 25, 2008, 16:01 GMT)

interesting article. point being made is, it is about perception, not reality. this is not a anti-pak article in any way. myself, i feel pakistanis have been treated very unfairly by 'rest of the world', but hey, being an indian i am also proud that we are not shrinking away from touring pakistan. and yes, i love pakistan too.

Posted by asif sarfraz on (September 25, 2008, 12:31 GMT)

I agree with aly! I think cricinfo has become a political website! I posted some comments about this yesterday, but they were never published! Think I may have made the staff realize the tensions that they are creating to the cricket fans! Split in world cricket! Thank cricinfo! After all it is media! Negative media!

Posted by salman on (September 25, 2008, 12:28 GMT)

well no one is safe in his own home, 9/11 was in america, 5/5 in London, pakistan is going through a tough time. all we can do just pray for better time, and we can see cricket in this part of world again.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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