First it was India’s High Commissioner to Australia, Sujatha Singh; and now it is the UN itself. The need to get to the ‘root cause’ of the attacks on Indians, and the demand for ‘credible answers’ has only increased in the last few weeks. The media din got a shot in the arm when Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith first acknowledged that some attacks on Indians appeared to be “racist in nature”. This followed by his recent statement on his visit to India that attacks have caused “considerable damage to Australia’s reputation among Indian people.”
So far so good. Acknowledging the elephant in the room is often the first step to further action. But hockey diplomacy as a solution to the racial question comes with it’s own set of problems. I am, of course, referring to the ‘Friendship Match’ between Australia and India in the hockey World Cup.
- To term a highly competitive, potentially conflictual game played in high spirits a ‘Friendship Match’ is a gamble. It will do us well to remember the infamous racial episode of Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh, who faced a match ban for his alleged racist slur aimed at Andrew Symonds. Reverse racism isn’t a solution to racism. Further, racism snowballs in public memory: once a racist, always a racist.
- Let’s face it — hockey is not the most avidly followed sport in either India or Australia. It is relegated to the peripheries of the sporting culture in both the countries. It doesn’t have the necessary reach to affect a change in public perception of the Indo-Australia relationship.
- For those few people who do follow hockey, it wouldn’t have pleased many Indians to know that the Aussies trounced them 5-2. Also, headlines that scream: Australia brings India crashing to earth (The Hindu) or Australia thrash India 5-2 at hockey World Cup (ToI) won’t do any good to the Indian psyche which is already irate at the Australian attacks. Thus, just calling it a ‘Friendship Match’ does little to boost positive sentiments among the citizens of either countries.