BCCI SECRETARY and BJP MP Anurag Thakur has called for resumption of cricket ties with Pakistan and urged direct engagement, starting with a bilateral series.
Stressing that it was important to sit across the table and talk to Pakistan, Thakur said that cricket could pave the way for other issues, such as terrorism and trade, to be discussed.
Thakur, who is also president of the BJP’s Yuva Morcha, insisted that it was time diplomacy was not swayed by social media on any engagement with Pakistan.
Speaking at The Indian Express Idea Exchange on Thursday, the Lok Sabha MP from Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh said India should decide if it wanted to remain at loggerheads with Pakistan or look at improving relations, starting with cricket.
“I think you have to take a call (on) whether there should not be any talks. Let other countries go to UN and let other boards go to ICC for decisions, but you have to decide if you want to engage with them. So I think you have to decide diplomatically what call to take. If you engage (with Pakistan), then you can raise the issue of terrorism as well as cricket as well as trade. But if you don’t engage, you give that opportunity to someone else,” said Thakur.
He added that the NDA government’s efforts were geared towards improving relations with all the neighbouring countries, including Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
“If you look at it, on one hand, you’re improving your relations with other countries, your visit to Bhutan, Nepal, the Foreign Minister’s visits to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In the last five years, if you look at our relations with our neighbours, they weren’t that good,” he said.
India last played Pakistan in a bilateral series at home in 2012.
Thakur, however, acknowledged that talking to Pakistan had become even more tricky in the last few years owing to pressure from the social media. “I think when it comes to Pakistan, it’s not that easy to take calls. And five years back, there was no role of social media. Today you see a lot of reaction from social media, but you still can’t say it’s the sense of the entire country. At times you can’t go only by social media; you have to look at the interests of the nation,” he said.
Stressing that talking was the only way forward, Thakur said, “I think diplomatic relations are very important for any country and deciding whether you want to remain at loggerheads or actually sit across the table and discuss things. We have been discussing the issues of cricket, trade, terrorism, PoK and Kashmir with Pakistan.”
Thakur also pointed out that India’s stand on not playing Pakistan in a bilateral series hardly reflected reality when both countries have been routinely playing each other in ICC events.
“We play Pakistan in the World Cup. We played them in the 2015 World Cup, we’ll play them next year in the Asia Cup. Then we’ll again play them in the month of March in World T20. So when you play them in a multinational tournament in world events, then what stops you from playing them in a bilateral series. So that’s the question we have to answer,” he said.