Amid the euphoria over India’s triumph in the cricket World Cup, a jarring note was created by the purported comments of Pakistan team’s captain on the relative magnanimity of people in the two countries. Indians can either take umbrage at these remarks or let them pass as just an emotional outburst arising out of Pakistan team’s deep disappointment at the loss at India’s hands. Nevertheless, it is worth reflecting upon if India has matured enough to assume the role of an elder, more enlightened and more responsible brother as it joins the ranks of the top-10 economies in the world and aspires to be among the top three or top five within the next 20 to 25 years. Sadly, there are many instances that give the impression that though the common Indian at large has already moved on or is moving ahead with the changes in the country, some of our institutions – and the people heading them – and our policy makers have yet to assume this increased responsibility and heightened expectations from those within India, from neighbouring countries or from anywhere else in the world.
Amid all the excitement over India’s win in Mumbai, a few jarring notes did pose some questions on the magnanimity of the the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) including its leadership. The end of the final match also marked the end of the career of one of the finest cricketers ever: Muttiah Muralitharan. Yet, the BCCI – or the International Cricket Council (ICC) – did not care to felicitate him. The Indian media and the public went bonkers after the victory. There was hardly a “send-off” interview with Muralitharan after the match. Indeed, at Wankhede, more attention was lavished by the cricket administrators and the media on the few film stars, assorted billionaires and the eye-candy in corporate enclosures than on the heroes of 1983 and later years, who strengthened the belief that India could win the World Cup again. It’s even worse that attempts were made to compare the caliber, abilities and achievements of the current set of players with those of the yesteryear icons. Kapil and Srikant gave as much joy, pride and hope to Indians as Yuvraj and Sehwag do today. So, why indirectly denigrate them by making insensitive comparisons?
Going a step ahead, if the BCCI (the most powerful and the richest cricket board in the world) and India (the biggest and more promising economy in Asia apart from China and Japan) have to act like one, then they must now assume some responsibility (rather than leaving it to the ICC) for nurturing cricket and cricketers at least in the neighbouring countries. It will benefit India and Indian cricket if the game prospers in other countries.
Apart from cricket, as the big brother the Indian government and Indian business can also do with larger hearts when it comes to our neighbours. The economies of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are highly dependent on a few sectors. These include textiles, agriculture and food. Encouraging free or freer trade agreements with them through South Asian Free Trade Area agreements will improve goodwill in our immediate neighbourhood, even if such agreements lead to a negative balance of trade with some of those countries. In the same context, allowing multiple-entry non-restricted business visas to genuine businessmen, artists and sportspersons from neighbouring countries (read Pakistan), even if there is no reciprocity, can be a positive first move by a more confident and big-hearted India.
Finally, it may be worthwhile for our political and bureaucratic leadership to reflect a bit on what role India wishes to play in the region. A tit-for-tat policy may be more appropriate when dealing with countries of similar economic and geo-political stature. Perhaps a foreign policy that is more influenced by our own very rich heritage in the context of India being the bigger, stronger, more successful and more mature nation in the region could actually get us more admiration, respect, support and success.