Afghan President Ghani’s cricket tweet shows good health of Kabul-New Delhi relations
Sports have proved to be a means for promoting peace and integrity a number of times in the past. While table tennis brought two hostile states - the US and China - closer in the early 1970s; South Asian rivals India and Pakistan used cricket to mend their fences in 2004 and similarly, the recent Korean peace initiative started with North and South Korea fielding their joint teams at the opening ceremony of Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea earlier this year.
On Saturday, May 26, another glimpse of politicians raking up the issue of sport to take a feel-good initiative was seen when the president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, posted a tweet praising the 19-year-old Afghan player Rashid Khan calling him a "hero" in whom the Afghans took "absolute pride". He said Rashid Khan reminded his country what's best for it and also remained an asset to the cricketing world.
He also thanked India for giving players from Afghanistan a platform to showcase their skills and he signed off with a light joke saying Afghanistan will not give Khan away and he tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his tweet.
"Afghans take absolute pride in our hero, Rashid Khan. I am also thankful to our Indian friends for giving our players a platform to show their skills. Rashid reminds us whats best about Afg. He remains an asset to the cricketing world. No we are not giving him away," Ghani said.
At a time when Afghanistan is facing a serious crisis of terror and instability at home and nobody, including the powerful United States, looking confident about how to tackle the situation there, the country's rise in cricket is a positive for its people and the leadership.
Afghanistan is also set to play its first Test match against India in Bengaluru in early June - something about which the war-torn country can feel proud about.
Ghani's praise for Khan came after the latter decimated Kolkata Knight Riders in the qualifiers to take his team - Sunrisers Hyderabad - to the final of the Indian Premier League to face Chennai Super Kings. The talented Afghan player's success on such a stage (he has been equally successful in international cricket) was not ignored by Ghani, a statesman who is struggling to keep his government in place against scores of challenges - internal and external.
His thanking India for giving his country's players a stage to exhibit their skills also reiterates Afganistan's rapport with India - something Kabul as well as the West consider key for rebuilding the disturbed country. His tagging Modi after saying that he would not give away Khan also reflected the good health of the relation that the two South Asian country shares.
With Afghanistan making a mark as a regular cricketing nation, the day is perhaps not far when the national cricketing teams of both Afghanistan and India will be making reciprocal visits, helping sporting as well as politico-cultural ties to improve with it. For the government in Kabul, these external engagements are key for its own good as the country is increasingly sinking under the influence of the terrorists with military solutions proving ineffective.