Spectators at the 2010 U.S. Open Tennis Championships bore witness to the power of international sport to bring together even the unlikeliest groups. Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and India’s Rohan Bopanna have been playing doubles tennis together since 2003, and this week the eyes of the world watched as they competed in the finals of the U.S. Open. Wait, did you catch that? Yes, I said India, Pakistan, and together all in the same sentence.
For those of you who fell asleep during World History in high school, India and Pakistan have been violent enemies since Pakistan’s creation in 1947. Wars have been fought and nuclear threats exchanged over issues of territory and religion, but for a short while this past week, the world watched as Indians waved Pakistani flags and Pakistanis rallied behind an Indian tennis player. All of this in support of the self-dubbed Indo-Pak Express, a partnership born out of love of the sport and transformed into hope for improved South Asian relations. Another unlikely partnership inspired by this group: the Indian and Pakistani Ambassadors to the UN who sat together at Wednesday’s match to cheer on the team.
Pakistan’s Ambassador Abdullah H. Haroon had this to say, “Sports will always play a certain role. No matter how you look at it, this is bound to improve things. Because this is people to people, this is not governments to governments, which have reservations and other aspects. This is people to people.”
So now maybe instead of giving the front page to an outspoken, yet completely irrelevant Floridian pastor and his book-burning threats, we can focus on this duo’s message of peace and sport that they tout of their sweatshirts: “Stop War, Start Tennis.”