x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Caloric warfare

India is competing with Pakistan in yet another arena, but this time the worst consequences will be indigestion or weight gain.

The enduring, far-reaching rivalry between Pakistan and India has shaped foreign policy and domestic politics in both countries for decades. Tensions flared into armed conflict in 1947, 1965 and 1971. Both have nuclear weapons, and the friction between them has alarmed the whole world. So any new point of dispute might be seen as cause for grave concern.

But now there is an additional arena for this conflict, one unlikely to generate any problems except perhaps indigestion or weight gain: Foodistan, a 26-part television programme which debuted this week on the Indian network NDTV Good Times, pits professional chefs from India and Pakistan against each other in the Mughlai style of cooking.

It's a "gruelling cross-border cook-off," says an NDTV advert, "India vs. Pakistan like you've never tasted before."

On the surface, this must have seemed like an entirely benign idea; friendly rivalry in the kitchen is obviously a step forward.

But perhaps we are all better off not knowing what went on behind the scenes; in every country, elite chefs are a notoriously competitive bunch even without the added ingredient of national pride.

Could this concept be of use on other troubled borders around the world? It's worth considering. Pots and pans, after all, serve to emphasise the easy-to-forget reality that all peoples do have a lot in common.