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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Thank You, Pakistan !

And to think it almost did not happen.

The security fears before the series had made this almost a non-starter. It took some initiative and courage – on both sides – to finally ensure this series happened – and how! Barring one incident involving an Indian journalist (for which immediate action was taken), the entire tour has only received positive comment from every player, official, journalist or even Indian visitor. The ground support (and I do not mean support from the players, although some may agree there too) from Pakistanis to Indians has been overwhelming.

Some die-hard critics (and there are still plenty on both sides) may say this is all “hogwash”. They will argue that the countries remain hostile to each other. They will argue that one cricket series, showcased for the international community and in election-year, as a “friendship series” does not mean a thing. The core issues remain conveniently un-addressed and this feel-good factor, so carefully nurtured by the incumbent Indian government as part of its “India shining” campaign, is going to evaporate as soon as the elections are over or with the first signs of internal pressure on Musharraf.

I can fully understand where they are coming from. Two months of bonhomie cannot undo fifty-five years of mistrust. It would be naïve to think so. Generations have grown up on a diet of suspicion and history books have only fomented this hatred.

But – call me a dreamer – I would like to take the small positives from the last two months and weave my own fabric of hope around this. Pakistanis and Indians sitting next to each other in Karachi, waving flags of both countries, without fear or concern for any backlash. Was this “stage-managed”?

Pakistanis falling all over Ganguly, Dravid and even Balaji. Was this “stage-managed”?

Just to see the Pakistani angle, I have been ardently following the Pakistani media over the last two months. I was most pleasantly surprised by the total lack of rancour about India. Was this “stage-managed”? (Critics will jump on this one, saying Musharraf controls the press. I will not comment on this).

This cricket site where Indians and Pakistanis have made friends over the last month – was this friendship “stage-managed”?

Sure, one swallow does not make a summer. But I can see a horde on the horizon – if only we, the people, allow this.

In a previous article, I had talked about cricket being in good hands – in the hands of the people. Now, with this series over, is a much, much more difficult task on hand for these very people. Building on this platform and working on this tenuous relationship.

Friends, let’s be clear: the future of this relationship lies in OUR hands, not in the hands of our governments.

To my Indian friends I would like to say: “Pakistan has been the perfect host. We need to reciprocate with full warmth and respect”.

To my Pakistani friends, I would like to say “ A BIG BIG THANK YOU! I cannot speak for other Indians, but you have definitely found a place in my heart!”