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Cricket diplomacy: Pakistan may host India in June

Indian PM to use match as excuse to continue the ‘Mohali spirit’.

NEW DEHLI: The Indian cricket team may visit Pakistan in June to play a one-day match, in what would be the first international cricket game to be played on Pakistani soil after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will likely visit Pakistan to watch the match, in an attempt to continue dialogue with Islamabad through the disguise of ‘cricket diplomacy’, amidst resistance from both within his own Congress party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to any direct talks with the top Pakistan leadership.

Sources inside the Indian government say that “the wounds of Mumbai have not yet healed,” which has led many Congress politicians to advise the Indian premier against turning the cricket match into a summit meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. They argue that India is not yet ready for a rapprochement with Pakistan.

Singh has never visited Pakistan for a bilateral meeting since he came to office in 2004. Singh was born in Chakwal district in 1932, though his family then migrated to India after Partition in 1947.

The commerce secretaries of the two countries will meet later this month, said Indian Foreign Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna. However, the minister also pointed out that terrorism remained the top concern for Indian policy with regard to Pakistan.

“With Pakistan, we have pursued the path of dialogue to reduce the trust deficit and to resolve all outstanding issues in the hope that we can build a better future for the peoples of both countries. At the same time, we have never abandoned our concerns about the need to eliminate cross-border terrorism.”

This formal position is mimicked by the party’s position that nothing useful would be gained by a summit meeting of the two prime ministers but that a conversation and interaction between the two countries should continue.