The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Games Delhi plays

New Delhi, Feb. 1: The Bush administration may have won scores of fans here by pushing the nuclear deal with India, but the game isnít over yet.

New Delhi has now decided to support Cuba, against America, in elections for the International Baseball Federation scheduled for March.

Youth affairs and sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, currently on a visit to Havana to sign a cooperation agreement in sports, has been mandated to tell Cuban officials that India will support its candidature in the baseball elections.

Considering baseball is very much part of the American holy trinity, invoking the kind of passion usually devoted to religion and entertainment, the March contest is likely to be a spirited one.

Cuba, too, has played baseball for over a hundred years. In fact, baseball was the choice weapon of dissent by Cuban natives against their Spanish rulers, who believed in the power and glory of the bullfight.

Back in India, the Cuba-vs-America story is no childís play. The US may have given New Delhi a leg-up in the international nuclear order, but many hearts and minds in India still beat for Havana.

From CPM general secretary Prakash Karat to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Cubaís charms have hardly eluded anyone. Singh made it a point to attend the NAM summit in Havana last October, where he took time off to meet an ailing Fidel Castro.

Many in the foreign office see the vote for Cuban baseball as a vindication for long-held beliefs, but others argue that it is symbolism at its best.

Still, the symbolism clearly matters. As for Aiyar, he received a message from Cubaís ambassador to India seeking support in the March baseball polls. Aiyar, a former diplomat, approached the external affairs ministry for clearance. He got it.

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