‘Hockey Match Joke’ & Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

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Student's dilemma in exam hall after he prepared an essay on Hockey Match but examiner asked to write the essay on Train. (illustration: Ravi Bhagwat/News Intervention)
Student's dilemma in exam hall after he prepared an essay on Hockey Match but examiner asked to write the essay on Train. (illustration: Ravi Bhagwat/News Intervention)

It’s a very old joke that would probably have remained forgotten had it not been for Islamabad enacting it out so often. For those who haven’t heard it, the joke goes like this: A student who was weak in English language got a ‘sure-shot’ tip from his friends that the subject of the essay in the upcoming exams would be about witnessing a hockey match. So, he looked up numerous English guidebooks and after finding a sample essay on this topic, got down in real earnest to memorise the same. But on the day of the exams he was aghast when he saw the question paper because instead of being asked to write about a hockey match for which he had so assiduously prepared, the topic of the essay was ‘a train journey’! 

While his friends who had tipped him off about the essay topic looked on in pure horror, he appeared to ponder for a moment as though he was collecting his thoughts and then commenced writing furiously without stopping as if there would be no tomorrow. After the exam was over, his friends asked him as to how come he was able to write so confidently and so much on a topic he hadn’t prepared for. He replied that though initially shocked, he had no problem as he had started off his essay by mentioning that he had got onto a train, but after covering a little distance it came to an abrupt halt as the engine had developed some fault. Then he wrote that on looking out from the window of the stationary train, he saw that a hockey match was being played and thereafter faithfully regurgitated all that he had learnt by rote. To ensure that he did not miss out mention of the subject matter in his conclusion (which was a must those days), he added that just as the hockey match finished, the engine fault was rectified and he thereafter proceeded on his train journey!

Many amongst the younger generation would find this joke woefully lacking in ‘wit-content’. But when one sees how desperately Islamabad tries to juxtapose anti-India rhetoric in each and every situation and occasion (often with disastrous results), one is automatically reminded of this hockey match joke!

Wasn’t it extremely naïve of Pakistan’s Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood to behave just like the protagonist in the above cited joke by trying to expect that he would actually succeed in his attempt to internationalise the Babri Mosque issue during the general policy debate of the UNESCO General Conference? Doesn’t his side-splitting attempt to try and peddle anti-India tirade by alleging that Indian Supreme Court’s decision on the Ayodhya issue was not in line with UNESCO’s values of religious freedom bears an uncanny resemblance with the hockey match and train journey joke? But, why single out the poor Education Minister when many others at the helm of affairs in Pakistan too are making a laughing stock of themselves!

Two and a half months ago, during the 4th South Asian Speakers’ Summit on ‘Achieving the Sustainable Goals’ held in Maldives, Pakistani delegate Qasim Suri surprised everyone by raising the Kashmir issue. However, instead of being debated (as an over-optimistic Islamabad had probably thought), not only was his out-of-context statement summarily rejected, but according to reliable sources, the Pakistani delegation was also told to confine itself to the agenda and Maldivian Speaker Nasheed assured India that all references to Kashmir would be expunged from the records! The net result was that while Islamabad gained nothing, Indian delegates got the opportunity of using this forum to remind the world of Pakistan Army’s horrific brutalities against the innocent people of erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971 and human rights excesses in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)!

Remember how just like the student in the joke who tried to connect a train journey with a hockey match, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi too thought that he could get away by linking resolutions passed by UNSC on Kashmir with provisions of the Indian constitution while submitting an official complaint to its President Joanna Wronecka. However, the initial confidence that he was oozing suddenly seemed to vanish when UNSC President answered media queries on the same with a terse “No comments,” reply. Qureshi’s cockiness was perceptibly missing just before the UNSC ‘closed door’ meeting when he told the media that “Giving vent to emotions is easy and raising objections is much easier. However, it is difficult to understand the issue and move forward. They are not waiting for you with garlands in their hands.”

Then we have Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan who seems to be working overtime trying to live up to his ‘Prime Minister of U-turns’ moniker. He kept saying that while Islamabad has always been keen on dialogue with India, it was New Delhi that had upped the ante by escalating tension along the Line of Control (LoC). But what Khan hasn’t been able to explain is that if Islamabad is really so committed to dialogue, then why did his government unilaterally downgrade diplomatic relations with New Delhi? Furthermore, if he genuinely wants unconditional talks to “resolve all outstanding issues, including that of Kashmir,” then why has he declared that “unless they (Government of India) lift curfew in Kashmir and rescind the revocation of Article 370, there is no chance of negotiations”?

Despite all its shortcomings, the hockey match joke has been made eternal, thanks to Pakistan!

Postscript In a surprising reversal of roles, while Prime Minister Imran Khan is speaking on matters military like the increasing probability of a nuclear war, by declaring that “Reality of Kashmir was neither changed by an illegal piece of paper in 1947, nor will any other do it now or in future,” Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa appears to have adorned the Prime Minister’s hat. But then, this isn’t something unusual in Pakistan.

The politicians are making a fool of themselves by trying to use anti-India sentiments and the Kashmir issue as the ‘master key’ (like the hockey match in the joke), under the erroneous belief that it will give Islamabad a chance to spew anti-India venom anytime and anywhere. However, the cake goes to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) for confusing one and all by stating that “Pakistan never recognised the sham of Indian efforts to legalise its occupation of J&K through Article 370 or Article 35-A decades ago, efforts which have now been revoked by India itself.” One is tempted to ask Gen. Bajwa that if your country never ‘recognised’ Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution, then why all this ruckus over its abrogation?

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