Sydney, Oct 17 (IANS):
A parliamentarian has questioned the decision to confer a top Australian award on Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, saying “it’s about the integrity of the honours list, which should be for Australians”.
Tendulkar’s award was an “obvious diplomatic touch point”, NSW Independent MP Rob Oakeshott said Wednesday, a day after Australian Primer Minister Julia Gillard announced Tuesday in New Delhi that Tendulkar would be conferred with the Member of the Order of Australia award.
“I love Sachin, I love cricket but I just have a problem with soft diplomacy,” he told ABC radio. “It’s about the integrity of the honours list, which should be for Australians.”
Gillard is on a three-day visit to India that began Monday.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald asked: “So Sachin, what have you done for us lately?”
It said that the Order of Australia apparently “operates on the principles of independence and freedom from political patronage”.
“But the timing of Tendulkar’s award is curious. Short of sending a ship-load of uranium to India, Gillard’s nod to Tendulkar in what she called the `cricket-mad nation’ has worked wonders in bolstering relations with our fastest-growing export market,” it said.
The article pointed out that other commentators have noted Tendulkar’s involvement in the racial abuse of Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds by Indian bowler Harbhajan Singh during the Sydney Test in 2008.
The only other Indian to have received an honorary award was former attorney-general Soli Sorabjee in 2006.
“Tendulkar sits rather oddly alongside such luminaries, who have done much to aid Australia and Australians at home and abroad. Sure, many Australians like cricket and Tendulkar is particularly good at playing it. But beyond giving us something to watch over summer, what has he done to benefit Australia?, the article asked.
It went on to say that if honorary awards are to be given on the basis of international achievement in a sport that also happens to be played in Australia, “presumably the prime minister also has Russian chess legend Garry Kasparov in mind. A nod to English darts players Phil “the Power” Taylor would be well received in every pub in the land”.
“Or what about the world women’s beach volleyball champions, Brazilians Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca? There’s a sport many of us like to watch. Certainly, such an award would do no harm in bolstering our trade relations in South America.”