IPL in South Africa did diplomatic wonders for India: Envoy

Monday, March 29, 2010

PANAJI - The second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) held in South Africa in April last year proved to be one of the biggest diplomatic exercises in that country, a senior diplomat said here Monday.

Speaking during a press conference before an outreach programme organised by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) public diplomacy division, Navneet Suri, a former consul general to South Africa, said that the popularity and level of awareness created about India by the IPL bandwagon in South Africa was one of the biggest gains of the money-spinner tournament.

The manner in which ordinary black and white South Africans bought merchandise branded by IPLs Indian franchises and turned up to root for their teams was something that had to be seen to be believed, Suri, now a joint secretary at the MEA public diplomacy division said, adding that the real impact of cricket and diplomacy could be best gauged by what the IPL did for India diplomatically during its South Africa sojourn.

Former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh, who was also present said that cricket emerged as a terrific tool for diplomacy as far as the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan were concerned.

Earlier, India-Pakistan cricket matches were like a battlefield. Later cricket proved to be a binding factor. When our cricketers went to Pakistan, they saw how much goodwill there was for India among the common Pakistanis, the former ambassador to the US said.

Mansingh added that cricket now qualified as a soft power as far as Indian diplomacy was concerned.

In foreign policy military strengths and other factors like the economy are hard powers. Cricket is being increasingly seen as a soft power, especially in Commonwealth countries, Mansingh said.

Filed under: Cricket, IPL

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