Pakistan ad 'mocking' India pilot ups ante ahead of World Cup clash


An Indian fighter pilot in the custody of Pakistani forces at an undisclosed location, 27 February 2019Image copyright
Pakistan Information Ministry (ISPR)

Image caption

Indian fighter pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistan earlier this year

India and Pakistan “tensions” are high again. But this time it’s over cricket.

The two sides are set to meet each other on Sunday in what is arguably the most highly-anticipated clash so far of the World Cup.

Pakistan has upped the ante with a TV ad, satirising an Indian pilot who became a national hero after he was captured in February when tensions between the two countries were high.

He was later released as “a gesture of peace”.

The incident, which occurred soon after more than 40 Indian paramilitaries were killed in a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir, brought the two countries to the brink of war and escalated emotions in India.

When the pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, was released, he received a hero’s welcome in India.

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Media captionWing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was handed over to Indian officials near a border crossing with Pakistan

In the ad, an actor sports an India cricket jersey and a distinctive handlebar moustache like Mr Varthaman.

It goes on to recreate an “interrogation” video of Mr Varthaman that was released by Pakistan shortly after his capture.

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In the original video, Mr Varthaman can be heard refusing to answer questions about his squadron and mission with the line: “I’m sorry, I’m not supposed to tell you that.”

In the television ad, the “pilot” is still refusing to give information. But this time it’s in response to questions about the upcoming cricket match, such as details about who’s going to be in the Indian team, while sipping a cup of tea. It ends with the actor being “dismissed” and then told to leave the “cup” behind – an obvious play on the World Cup trophy.

But while the ad is clearly meant to be a tongue-in-cheek take on a recent India-Pakistan incident, it has struck a nerve in India, with many on social media calling it “insensitive” and “shameful”.

But while many denounced the advert for its “mocking” tone, others have seen some humour in it.

A few users have also asked India to take the ad in its stride and retaliate by winning the match against Pakistan.

It’s clear that passions are running high before the hotly-anticipated match which is due to take place on Sunday in Manchester’s Old Trafford stadium. It is set to be attended by thousands of ardent Indian and Pakistani fans.

But seeing as a slew of recent World Cup matches have been cancelled due to rainy weather in the UK, it would be quite ironic if this game is also washed out – especially since it has had such a dramatic warm-up.


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