Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in the Maldives, on Saturday, for his first international visit after being re-elected, to strengthen the bilateral ties between the two countries. During the visit, Modi gifted a cricket bat signed by Indian cricket team to Maldives President Ibrahim Solih.
“Connected by cricket! My friend, President Solih is an ardent cricket fan, so I presented him a cricket bat that has been signed by Team India playing at the CWC2019”, said Modi on Twitter.
“We cherish the strong historical and cultural ties between India and the Republic of Maldives. India is proud to support various measures that will boost people-to-people relations between our nations,” Modi said on Twitter.
We cherish the strong historical and cultural ties between India and the Republic of Maldives.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 9, 2019
India is proud to support various measures that will boost people-to-people relations between our nations. pic.twitter.com/9xSBMsNP34
During the visit, PM Narendra Modi and Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih jointly inaugurated two projects – a Coastal Surveillance Radar System (CSRS) built by India and a composite training facility of the Maldives National Defence Force. Modi and Solih held wide-ranging talks as the two countries signed six agreements to strengthen bilateral cooperation in key areas like defence and maritime security.
In a goodwill gesture, PM Modi was conferred with the Maldives’ Maldivian government’s highest honour ‘Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen’ conferred by Male on foreign dignitaries.
What is cricket diplomacy?
When two cricket paying countries uses the game to enhance or worsen the diplomatic relation it is called cricket diplomacy.
Modi’s emphasis is on cricket diplomacy
PM Modi said that India will help the Maldives to promote cricket and develop the sport to consolidate people-to-people relations. Modi’s emphasis is on cricket diplomacy in the Maldives. In a PTI report, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said the ministry is working with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to train Maldivian cricketers. “A team from the BCCI visited the Maldives earlier in May for the training of Maldivian cricketers, organising coaching programmes and supply of kits,” quoted PTI.
In March 2019, after then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj released a statement where it said that the Maldivian side requested Indian assistance for the construction of a cricket stadium. India further assured that it will ‘positively consider’ its request. In April, Solih visited India to attend an Indian Premier League (IPL) match in Bengaluru.
India and Pakistan’s Cricket Diplomacy History
Talking about cricket diplomacy between India and Pakistan, sometimes it really helped while at the other times it worsened the situation. From 1947 to 1954, three test series were played between India and Pakistan. Later, for six years, cricket exchanges between the two countries completely stopped.
Thanks to the efforts of both the government, cricket resumed between both the countries in 1978. The initiative was taken Morarji Desai from India and General Zia-ul-Haq from Pakistan. As a result, Desai asked India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to stop its activities in Pakistan. As a goodwill gesture, in 1990, Desai was felicitated with Pakistan’s highest civilian award ‘Nishan-e-Pakistan’.
In 1987, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the then Pakistan President General Zia ul-Haq visited India to watch a test match between India and Pakistan in Jaipur. The visit helped to cool the tension between the two countries. Later, as a follow-up, the then Finance Minister of India V.P. Singh visited Pakistan to meet his counterpart in Pakistan Mahbub-ul-Haq for a dialogue.
India defeated Pakistan in the three World Cups played in the year 1992, 1996 and 1999.
In 1998, after bus service was inaugurated between Lahore and Delhi and the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met his counterpart Nawaz Sharif, tensions between the two countries decreased. As a result, the two-match test series were played between India and Pakistan in 1999 – first in January and then in February.
However, in December 1999, after Indian airlines, flight was hijacked India cut-off all the cricketing ties with Pakistan.
In 2004, Vajpayee’s Pakistan visit to attend the SAARC summit helped to boost the relationship between the two countries. Following which three tests and five ODIs were scheduled. Both the countries gave each other a grand welcome.
2008 to present
After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, India cut-off all the cricketing ties with Pakistan. Pakistani players are not allowed to play in India, while India hasn’t visited Pakistan since then. During the 2011 World Cup, India and Pakistan clashed in the semi-final. Cricket diplomacy emerged again when the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart in Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani met each other. Singh invited Gilani to watch the match with him at Mohali while Ghilani invited Singh to visit Pakistan for peace talks. In 2012, Pakistan visited India for a T20 and three One-Day International series.
In 2015 World Cup, before India and Pakistan clash, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is believed to call his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Modi’s move sparked off controversies and debate.
Thus, over the years, cricket diplomacy is used as a tool to strengthen the ties between two cricket playing countries.
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