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March 10, 2019

Peace through sports in the Sub-continent

Sports

March 10, 2019

Kashmir has been the bone of contention between India and Pakistan since independence from British rule. The two countries have fought full-scale wars in 1965 & ‘71 and came very close to serious conflicts several times, in 2002 and 2008. New York Times in a recent editorial claimed that it was not the Korean peninsula but Indo-Pakistan that had the potential to start a nuclear war at the push of a button, thus putting the world peace at stake.

After the Pulwama episode the government of India started military aggression on Pakistan to attain certain political and geo-strategic gains and also persuaded the world sports bodies to close their doors on Pakistani athletes. This belligerence by India has put the entire development and peace process of region at palisade.

In this delicate situation Pakistani leadership headed by world renowned Cricketer Imran Khan showed restraint but the Indian leadership is bent upon destroying the world peace through war-mongering tactics.

This antagonism between the two neighbours is not restricted to eye-ball to eye-ball situation on borders but has also affected the domains of peaceful and softer areas like sports. Most recently the Indians tried their level best to politicise the much-awaited World Cup encounter with Pakistan at Old Trafford on June 16. However, better sense prevailed and the ICC rejected BCCI’s demand.

While Pakistan is trying its best to ensure peace and has mobilized all diplomatic channels for peaceful settlement of conflict with India, the powerful world sports bodies including International Olympic Committee (IOC) seem mum on the subject. This is the moment of realisation for world sports bodies including IOC that champion the cause of using sports to achieve peace that the Subcontinent needs more support to launch and promote sports for peace and life skills development programmes on both sides of the border.

All UN member states including Pakistan and India have signed the “Olympic Truce” under IOC umbrella to promote peace and address conflicts through sports but it’s a fact that India has never been proactive in using sports to promote peace in the region. Refusal of visas to Pakistani athletes visiting India for participation in international competitions and shying away from facing Pakistani teams in international contests have become India’s usual practices.

It’s time for sports for peace bodies around the world to play their role and come forward to help settle the outstanding issues between the two countries.

Initiative have been taken by the Indian sports think tanks in the field of sports for development but the philosophy of promoting peace through sports has not yet permeated into the Indian mindset.

If the claim of Indian Sports for Development organisation “Slum Soccer” working in Nagpur is true and 70,000 men in 63 Indian districts have actually transformed their lives and learned to live better with the help of sports programmes, the Indian government should come up with sports programmes to promote internal and external peace.

The ongoing standoff between India and Pakistan is far more serious than the previous conflicts. Sports bodies should urge the two nations to exercise restraint. Friendly countries like Jordan with Prince Feisal Al Hussein who heads “Generations for Peace” and organisations like Peace & Sports founded by Olympian Joel Bouzou should come forward and play their role to mitigate hostilities between the two countries.

The President Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) Lt Gen Syed Arif Hasan, who has recently been re-elected as Vice President Olympic Council of Asia, and Sheikh Ahmad –Al- Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait should mobilise their good offices and reach the international bodies championing the cause of sports for peace to help cool down the high temperatures across the borders.

Sports for peace programmes will not only help the two countries ease the ongoing tension but also help them attain the UN Sustainable Goals (STGs).

Peace between the two nuclear neighbours is a must for the peace of the entire world. If international players can help promote peace initiatives between Greece & Turkey for settlement of Cyprus issue, why they forget to do the same for these nuclear states.

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