After Pakistan’s defeat at the hands of India on Wednesday, Pakistan’s captain, Shahid Afridi, garnered praise from the Indian media for his graciousness in defeat.
That bolstered an aura of camaraderie created by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to invite his Pakistani counterpart, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, to watch the game.
By Monday, that atmosphere had evaporated after Mr. Afridi returned home and made comments of a much different tenor.
Asked by a chat show host on Pakistan’s Samaa TV station about what it was like playing in India and the feeling he got from the Indian public, Mr. Afridi had this to say:
“If I speak truthfully, they just can’t have the kind of heart a Muslim has or a Pakistani has. I think they don’t have the sort of big hearts, pure hearts, Allah has given us.”
The comments elicited applause from a studio audience.
Mr. Afridi also panned the Indian media for its negativity. A producer for Samaa TV confirmed the remarks.
The comments sparked a storm at the weekend in the Twitterverse. Some Indians agreed with Mr. Afridi’s take on the Indian media. But the “pure hearts” remark left others fuming.
In defense, some Pakistani commentators dredged up a remark by Indian batsman Gautam Gambhir, who ahead of Saturday’s final vowed to dedicate victory to the victims of the Mumbai attacks.
Those attacks in November 2008, which left over 160 people dead, were carried out by 10 Pakistani militants. Peace talks between the two countries broke down after that and are only now taking baby steps forward.
The furor is likely to blow over. Public figures have a habit of speaking in one register while overseas and then playing to the gallery when back home.
Nowadays, though, comments like these have a habit of jumping from one audience to another. Like much in India-Pakistan relations, a tentative improvement again has quickly given way to mutual recriminations.
The foreign ministers of both nations are scheduled to meet before July in a move to inch peace talks forward.
What is Mr. Afridi’s prognosis for the process?
“It is a very difficult thing for us to live together or to have a long-term relationship. This can’t just happen from talking. See how many times we’ve made friends and how many times the friendship has been broken,” he told Samaa.
And then rather cryptically: “We don’t want to fight but there’s a third country—you know, I know, which it is—that’s destroying our relationship, that’s taking advantage of Pakistan. Everyone knows which it is, I don’t want to go into details. But that country won’t let us come together. Agencies