A test of nerves

THE NATION is celebrating the Indian cricket team’s victory over Pakistan after a hard-fought battle in Mohali. This semi-final clash between India and Pakistan led to many “winners”. In a replay of cricket diplomacy that could help resume their stalled peace process, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to watch the match.

After India crushed Australia in Ahmedabad to set up the semi-final clash against Pakistan, Dr Singh — a strong advocate of peace with Islamabad — sent the invites through the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi.
Once the euphoria of the victory ebbs, we should pause to reflect on the road ahead into what clearly is going to be a difficult year for both the countries. Society does not live on the doom and gloom syndrome and, despite a troubled relationship with Pakistan on several counts, we have had many short-term gains as several windows of opportunity opened.
While critics might say that nothing substantial has been achieved before or after the cricket match, we have, at least, succeeded in bringing happiness and peace to families whose kin were suffering jail terms on both sides of the border.
Pakistan has gone through a nightmare with internal conflicts and a power struggle that threatens to engulf it. Internal chaos, coupled with nature’s fury in the form of floods, had wreaked havoc in the country. Despite all dissuasion and diversions, it is a good thing that both sides want peace and an end to hostility.
We won the cricket match in Mohali, but will this contest be seen only in terms of runs scored and wickets taken? The success and failure of individuals also matters. The debate on this can go on forever.
During the match, Harbhajan Singh bowled a superb delivery to take the wicket of Umar Akmal. According to me, this was the turning point of the match as victory was visible.
The match saw political VVIPs, filmstars and all the past and present legends of the game. Could anyone dream of the same a decade ago?

WE WILL shortly have the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). During the IPL-4 auction, the IPL governing council had decided to keep Pakistani players away. The decision was taken keeping in mind the probe into match-fixing allegations by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Three Pakistani players — Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir — were charged under Article 2 of the ICC Anti-Corruption Code on September 2, 2010 and have been provisionally suspended since then.
Also, a secretly filmed video purportedly showed alleged bookmaker Mazhar Majeed boasting of connections with four other Pakistani cricketers — Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz and Imran Farhat.
It would be a good thing if we see a few talented Pakistan cricketers play in IPL-4. If the intent is clear rules and regulations can hardly matter.

THE EVENTS in north Africa and West Asia are deeply disturbing. Violence in Libya and politics over oil played by major global players is unfolding. Will anyone in the UK and parts of Europe punish those who have benefited from the generosity of Col. Muammar Gaddafi and his military regime? Does the news of his “financial assets” being frozen have any credibility? We have a civil war situation in Libya and there is an upheaval in almost every country. “Absolute” regimes — based on the power of feudal linkages — play the global power game at the behest of superpowers. People in these nations are deprived of political and economic freedom by the security forces.
As advanced technology brings home the facts on our television screens, we are able to witness the events as they unfold. No government in the Western world can afford to play hide and seek without losing public support. Also, puppet regimes are going out of fashion. The transition to democracy is always chaotic and can take decades but I am glad that the process has begun. It’s only a matter of time before the colonial structure in West Asia and north Africa collapses.
I think all the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries have a decisive role to play and the influence of China, Russia and India in the global arena is visible. It will provide greater stability to the process of change. Complex situations have to be explained in simplistic terms. Across the globe, it is apparent that the power patterns are changing as the gross domestic product and growth projections of the United States and much of the Western world are matched by the Bric nations. Hence, I hope we will attain greater balance in decisions in the future.
We are looking at short-term turbulence and, as financial re-structuring takes place, two distinct patterns will emerge. In the developed countries, people will have to learn to live with “less” and moderate consumption patterns. This can result in a great deal of political turbulence, as we saw in the UK where 250,000 protested the cuts in spending, and in many parts of Europe where governments can be voted out.
The developing countries have to ensure greater equity in income distribution. If necessary, it should be done by legislation. Greater transparency and effective governance will result in a great deal of expectation. Change at all levels will become important.
We often speak of our favourable demographic pattern, but are those in governance are fully aware of the increased expectation levels. Earlier, while leaders took a decade to deliver, now things have to be done within one year.
The pressure will be on politicians both at the Centre and in the states. We have to shift to a more youthful pattern in the immediate future and have a surfeit of talent. Also, those who speak of lack of alternatives will do well to remember that in politics there are few vacancies and for every job there are 10 contenders.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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