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KARACHI: As Indian Home Minister and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Amit Shah attempted to jeopardise chances of improvement in relations between the nuclear neighbours by dubbing the Sunday cricket match victory ‘another strike on Pakistan’, Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Monday advised him not to equate game with war.

The BJP’s former president had in his congratulatory message to the Indian cricket team after the match tweeted: “Another strike on Pakistan by Team India and the result is same. Congratu­lations to the entire team for this superb performance. Every Indian is feeling proud and celebrating this impressive win.”

Mr Shah was referring to the February airstrike on what India alleged was a “terrorist training camp”, though independent reporting by multiple local and international organisations who visited the site found no evidence of a training camp or of any infrastructure damage.

Responding to the statement, ISPR DG Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor via his personal account on Twitter said: “Dear Amit Shah, yes your team won a match. Well played.”

However, he said, “Two things with different denominators can’t be compared, so are strikes and match. If in doubt please see results of our Nowshera counter strikes and response to IAF [Indian Air Force] violation on 27 Feb 19 downing two Indian jets,” he said. He ended his tweet with the remark: “Stay Surprised.”

A day before the two Indian fighter jets were downed by Pakistan, the ISPR DG had told a press conference that the prime minister had asked everyone to get ready for every eventuality. “We are all ready. Now it is time for India to wait for our response. We will surprise you. Wait for that surprise,” he had asserted.

The following day, the Pakis­tan Air Force had announced that its jets had flown into occupied Kashmir to demonstrate its capability to res­pond to Indian aggression, locked on to military targets, and then spared them.

It had later shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakis­tani airspace when they tried to give chase to Pakistani jets, capturing Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. The IAF pilot was released by PM Imran Khan as a “peace gesture”.

The long-running political tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours over Kashmir had spiked a couple of months before the general elections in India. The two countries had fought two wars since the territory was divided in 1947, while India cut bilateral cricket ties with Pakistan over a decade ago.

With such a history, cricket clashes are regularly tainted by the political rivalry between the two. Many Indian fans view a win against Pakistan as a matter of national honour, while defeats are looked down upon as disasters.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2019