India and Pakistan May Need a Cricket "Test Ban Treaty"

By Ali, M. M. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 3, 1996 | Go to article overview

India and Pakistan May Need a Cricket "Test Ban Treaty"


Ali, M. M., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


India and Pakistan May Need a Cricket "Test Ban Treaty"

By M.M. Ali

Not only is English beef suddenly not edible, another proud British tradition is in jeopardy. Cricket--a game that is played throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations and which symbolizes the courtly traditions of the British Empire--is not just a sport; it is a national obsession wherever it is played.

But things are changing. Violence on the field and in the stands has given England and Germany a bad name in soccer. Ice hockey no longer is televised in prime time in the U.S. because of the unacceptable level of violence among the players. By contrast, cricket was always known as the "gentleman's game" and test-matches at one time were played for five days at a stretch. Not any more. The recently completed Will's World Cup Cricket Tournament brought to the fore some harsh realities. True, the game itself is not to be faulted. The politics of the subcontinent had a lot to do with incidents that marred several tournament encounters.

When Pakistan lost to India in the quarter-finals at Bangalore, India, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao rushed to congratulate the Indian team on its victory. In Pakistan, the National Assembly in Islamabad wanted to conduct "an inquiry" into the performance of Pakistan's team. Pakistani captain Wasim Akram's home in Lahore, Pakistan, was pelted with rotten eggs and stones and the entire team went into hiding on its return from India.

Things got even worse when tiny Sri Lanka defeated giant India in the semi-finals in Calcutta, India. Infuriated Indian on-lookers stormed the field before the game was over, burned the stadium and threatened to kill the Indian team's captain, Mohammed Azharuddin, who is an outstanding batsman, an unmatched fielder, a gentleman's gentleman and the only Muslim on the Indian team. The government of India had to post armed guards at his residence.

The entire disgraceful Calcutta episode was televised live via satellite to the world. Although Indians apologized, they and the Pakistani fans were shamed. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankans went on to beat Australia in Lahore and take the world championship.

It is likely, as the later incidents demonstrated, that had Pakistan defeated India in the quarter-finals on Indian soil, the lives of the visiting Pakistani team would have been in jeopardy and the result could even have sparked Hindu-Muslim riots in India. Several Pakistanis thanked Allah for the loss. But one Pakistani fan committed suicide because his team did not win. However one may describe the way the game was played in the subcontinent this year, it certainly was not cricket.

Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

The 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was approved by 178 nations last year. This year the United States would like to see the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) signed by "as many states as possible." The 38 nations that have been meeting in Geneva to work out an acceptable CTBT have found that they still are far from a consensus.

The U.S., France and Britain want a total "zero yield" test ban. Russia also wants a total ban but is not clear on the modalities of its implementation. China would like to leave the door open for "peaceful" nuclear tests. Among the known three threshold states--India, Pakistan, Israel--India now wants a complete nuclear disarmament with a specific timetable. And Pakistan will sign the CTBT if India does so. "We are relatively close together, we are drawing closer...This historic opportunity must not be lost," observed Warren Christopher, the U.S. secretary of state. However, not many share Christopher's optimism.

While the states are discussing the need and the prospects of CTBT, a spate of scary stories has been circulating in the subcontinent in recent weeks. In a powerful op-ed article, Jessica Matthews wrote in the March 25 Washington Post: "If there is a political snarl anywhere in the world for which there does not seem to be a promising solution, it is surely the India-Pakistan-China nuclear tinderbox. …

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