He was and is as keen a competitor as they came in any cricket contest, whether as an individual contributor, or as a captain of a team of swashbuckling cavaliers.
But that was a mere game in stirring tests of talents and skills, of playfield tactics and strategies, and of youthful energy and spirit in arenas of sporting combat. In Kashmir yesterday, and over Kashmir today, there reigns not a game involving bat and ball, but a crisis of the greatest peril.
What is involved in the Kashmir fallout and Kashmir escalations are more than a sliver of willow and a non-fragmentary red sphere launched at 90 MPH. What is involved now is the potential at fingertips of two sides, which are locked almost eyeball to eyeball, to unleash forces at thousands of miles per hour that can annihilate more than millions; they can obliterate destinies. It is not about rehearsal in the nets, but the real implications of a grave test; a test of the existential.
The awesome frightening tools are there; and they are made more ominous by longstanding passions that are powerful and prevalent. This is the theater of what could be limited nuclear conflict. Except that limited in no restraining hand at all; and that in the flow and flush of death and destruction limited goes out the window in the crucibles of stress and overpowering distress.
Necessities brought about by implosion and compulsion could overwhelm discipline; as well as the determined, but fragile commitments of men trapped in mortal combat and faced with deadly peril.
It does not matter who has how many more warheads or less, nor which side possesses greater or lesser range of fire and accuracy, nor which country has higher or lower delivery payloads and explosive power. No! It does not matter any more when red lines are crossed; after all, there is only so much capacity to absorb fissionable fire detonated through the warhorses of technology.
There are no brakes; there are no reverse gears and no emergency recalls, once that fateful die is rolled. Still a captain, and now in the figure of a president, and manifesting great personal courage in the teeming conflagration of flaring hostilities, both within and without, is Imran Khan.
A daring step is taken: the release of a pilot captured in spiraling conflict. Seeking to diffuse the combustible and the unthinkable. Hoping to bring a level of calm to a raging and treacherous whirlpool that is the fundamentalism coursing through both adversaries. A great, good step; local leaders should listen.
But President Khan did so think and then ventured this crucial first step of freeing the captured pilot. It is about preparing to stand down and step away from what can only be the destructive.
This is not about a game of cricket; it is more than the bitter Kashmir struggle and disputed territory and bloodshed and the accumulated bad blood simmering with radioactive lethality. This is about tomorrow and the days after. If they are possible, given what is faced.
Nuclear war has nothing limited about it; it is still war of an unknown kind and to an unfathomable degree. After the stockpiling of tensions, the targeting of the receptive and the willing listening, there is nothing, save for the unwanted and the unimaginable still ahead.
All of this is over a piece of prized real estate called Kashmir; and, let there be no mistake: it must not be forgotten that this is about deep religious bigotries, if not hatreds, too. That is way over there. Over here in Guyana, the taut, tense battlegrounds are about elections and political power. There is the surging, always powerful, subtext of race also.
In Guyana, leaders can learn from the rare statesmanship of Imran Khan. As matters ascend the domestic political and social Defcon scale, somebody has to step forward and deescalate. Otherwise, Guyana’s road ahead promises only untold destabilization.
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