India and Pakistan team up on the tennis court

The moment has finally arrived! An Indian, Rohan Bopanna, and a Pakistani, Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, have made it to the finals of the U.S. Tennis Open, a Grand Slam event. Hats off to the Indo-Pak Express! The U.S. Open is tennis’s largest event, garnering far and away the most media coverage.

Now it’s spotlighting two world-class athletes and, more importantly, their partnership. What they’re doing takes guts. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since becoming independent in 1947, and remain bitter rivals. For Rohan and Aisam, these facts are history, and should be treated as such.

The two practice together, often travel together, and get along well off the court. Their on-court interaction is even more impressive; they move in sync, anticipate each other’s moves, cover each other’s backs and demonstrate a mutual trust that few would expect. Doubles tennis is all about team dynamics: exploiting each other’s strengths, compensating for each other’s weaknesses.

At the semifinals, held at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this Wednesday, India and Pakistan’s ambassadors to the U.N. shook hands and cheered — together. Indians and Pakistanis stood up and clapped — together. Now if only we could get Republicans and Democrats back on the courts, playing doubles — you guessed it — together.

IFE has hosted VIP tennis round-robins for years, bringing together members of both parties, ambassadors, media luminaries — you name it — to build camaraderie, civility, trust and friendship. But our last round-robin was in 2003. It’s just too hard these days to get players with different points of view on the same court.

Here’s to hoping the Indo-Pak Express can show the leadership in our Capital City a thing or two about finding common ground — tennis-court style!


Kathy Kemper is founder and CEO of the Institute for Education, a nonprofit foundation that recognizes and promotes leadership and civility locally, nationally and in the world community.