Yesterday, wrestlers from both India and Pakistan participated in a one-day competition called Mission Dosti (“Mission Friendship”), which aimed to promote better relations between the two countries. The event, held at Katra in Jammu & Kashmir [Indian-administered Kashmir], was part of a nine-day religious festival, known as Navratra. Mission Dosti has occurred annually since 2005. Abdul Rehman, a Pakistani wrestler from Lahore, told a news agency, “There is no difference between Pakistan, India and Jammu and Kashmir. The governments (of both countries) should unite and the people should come together.” Wrestling star Sushil Kumar, who won the bronze medal for India during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, asserted, “Wrestling is a game of love and Pakistani wrestlers are equally happy when we win medals… I believe it (the wrestling competition) has made a new beginning.” Tariq Mir, another wrestler from Pakistan, echoed, “I think sports are a great means to boost friendship between the two countries leading them to the path of peace.”
The Indian and Pakistani participants engaged in kushti, a form of wrestling that is thousands of years old. Also known as pehlwani, the sport is a combination of the ancient form of wrestling indigenous to the region and a Persian form of the sport brought to the Indian subcontinent by the Mughals, [the Mughal court officially patronized Persian culture]. Wrestling is a sport popular in both India and Pakistan.
This blog has previously explored alternate avenues of Indo-Pak diplomacy, including the use of film, music, and sports to strengthen ties between the countries, [see past posts on the release of Khuda Kay Liye in India, and Junoon's performance in Jammu & Kashmir]. I have been a major proponent of such kinds of citizen diplomacy, and feel they are instrumental in bolstering understanding and goodwill. Although much work needs to be done at the government level, incidents like these are nevertheless significant and important. [Image above from Dawn]