Monday, August 10, 2020
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Twitter diplomacy: Imran Khan made a thread on India-Pak world cup match but zero tweets by PM Modi

Cricket has always been part of ‘track 2 diplomacy’ between India and Pakistan so off-field events can’t be ignored. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have royally ignored the India vs Pakistan world cup match.

India vs Pakistan cricket matches have always been bigger than any other cricket match, even tournament finals. Such matches have been seen as part of diplomacy and the emotions often reflect the relationship between the two countries.

Once Imran Khan, the current Prime Minister of Pakistan and former cricket captain of Pakistan, had famously and cockily said that he could solve Kashmir dispute on the cricket pitch.

Even the current match was under lots of controversy as both the nations were meeting for the first time after Pulwama terror attack by Pakistan backed terrorists and the ensuing Balakot airstrikes by India. There were demands from various quarters earlier that India should boycott the match against Pakistan.

The match finally took place, though, despite the calls for a boycott and unreliable English weather. India beat Pakistan easily by 89 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis method. Even if the rains had not curtailed Pakistan’s chase, Pakistan was set to lose the match.

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India’s victory immediately triggered a wave of congratulatory messages, which included tweets from common fans, cricketers, celebrities and politicians. Home Minister Amit Shah and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh also tweeted to congratulate the Indian team for their clinical performance.

But one name was missing, that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In fact, PM Modi has not tweeted about the match at all, either before the match or after the results. Both the personal Twitter handle of Narendra Modi as well as the handle of Prime Minister’s Office had zero tweets on the India-Pakistan match.

In comparison, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had a series of tweets wishing the best for his team. Imran Khan also tweeted some tips for the Pakistan cricket captain, which were incidentally not followed by the captain. He has not tweeted after the results, perhaps he is still shocked. And for sure, he will now not offer to solve Kashmir dispute on a cricket pitch.

Given that Prime Minister Modi is online savvy and doesn’t miss an opportunity to connect with the masses on popular topics, the absence of any tweet on such a big match where everyone was hooked on to, is not something that can be missed.

Prime Minister Modi had tweeted only once before the world cup began, wishing the best for team India, hence he, by not tweeting before or after the match, decided to not treat the India-Pakistan match as any special event, even though it was a crucial match. This is in contrast with tweets of Imran Khan, who clearly thought this was important enough an event for him to tweet.

Given that India-Pakistan cricket has always been seen as a part of “Track 2 diplomacy”, perhaps it won’t be too exaggerated to conclude that there was some signalling involved when Prime Minister decided to simply treat this India-Pak encounter as a ‘routine event’ not worth taking note or be excited about.

Has Prime Minister Narendra Modi signalled that his priorities or outlook on India-Pakistan relationship is way different than those of Imran Khan? Or has he signalled that the days of “Track 2 diplomacy” are officially over? Prime Minister Modi has been in favour of de-hyphenating India and Pakistan and focus on India as an independent global power despite the ‘bleed India by a thousand cuts’ policy that Pakistan employs as the state’s strategy to counter India. By not acknowledging the match, one wonders if PM Modi is trying to do just that.

In an era when tweets of world leaders comprise diplomatic strategy, the absence of some tweets surely can hint at things going on.

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