In the tense and fractured political landscape of South Asia it is easy to lose sight of the ultimate objective; peace. Political opposition or even direct hostility does not need to turn into a complete severance of relations, especially for countries that have generations of shared history. However, the proponents of this conciliatory view are far and few in between, drowned out by the noise of misplaced jingoism. Therefore, we should encourage and amplify such harmonious narratives wherever they are found.

In this vein, the Kabaddi World Cup 2020, currently underway at Punjab Stadium in Lahore, has been a much-needed reminder of the common cultural bonds that we share with our neighbors. Kabaddi, played across the subcontinent under many names and popularized in the farmlands of rural Punjab during the 20th century, is a homegrown sport that is going through a well-deserved global resurgence. Teams from diverse nations such as Azerbaijan, Sierra Leone and Canada have taken to the chalk circle; all linked by their common South Asian heritage. The organizers, such as the Pakistan Kabaddi Federation (PKF) and the Punjab government, must be commended for persisting with this endeavor despite strained political relations across the subcontinent. The Indian delegation must be commended too, for choosing to take a pioneering decision by agreeing to come to Pakistan.

In this backdrop the words of cricketing icons - Shahid Afridi and Yuvraj Singh – who were both present at the Expo 2020 Dubai Cricket tournament final, become highly relevant.

While speaking to the media at the event the ex-Pakistani captain Afridi said, “I think, if India and Pakistan were to have a series, it will be something bigger than the Ashes. However, we don’t seem to get it. We are letting politics get in the way of people’s love for this sport and their wish to come together.” His sentiments were mirrored by Yuvraj Singh; “we play cricket for the love of the sport. We cannot choose which country to play against ourselves. But what I can say is that the more India vs Pakistan cricket there is, the better it is for the sport.”

Such displays of peace-building are crucial. The history of “cricket diplomacy” between Pakistan and India during crises of the past is well-known. Its complete disappearance in the best part of the last decade has done immeasurable harm to relations between the two nations. The few glimpses of camaraderie seen between Indian and Pakistani players at international tournaments are the only remnants that we have left of that time.

South Asia cannot stay entangled in communal violence forever, our final goal must be peaceful coexistence - let us not burn all the bridges before it is too late.