India open to sending cricket team to Pakistan

NEW DELHI: At a time when most countries are shying away from playing in Pakistan, India says it is open to sending its cricket team there. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said as cricket can become an instrument of diplomacy, "in such situations, India was looking at promoting cricketing contacts with Pakistan".

"We are definitely open. Of course, this has to be discussed between the cricketing fraternities on both sides and taken forward," said Rao in a television interview replying to a specific query on whether or not India was looking at sending its team to Pakistan.

In their recent meeting at Mohali, PM Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani had spoken favourably about renewing sporting contacts but this is the first time a senior government official has said that India's doesn't mind sending its cricket team to Pakistan.

"It is not that we have forbidden our teams from going there. Security is always an issue and we always like to be sure about security when we allow our teams to go there. But when it comes to cricket, I think cricket sometimes becomes an instrument of diplomacy in such situations," said Rao.

Rao also said that Pakistan has conveyed to India that its policy of engagement with India has the backing of the powerful Pakistan army. "What is conveyed to us is that the policy of dialogue with India to seek a peaceful resolution of outstanding issues is a policy that is the government of Pakistan's policy and it is a policy that is shared or is endorsed by all the institutions of government including the army. This is the message that we are getting consistently in the last few meetings," she said.

Rao said that the decision to invite Gilani for the Mohali match was taken by Singh himself. She went on to describe it as a "very good, timely and effective decision". Rao also did not rule out the possibility of Singh visiting Pakistan but said that a lot of preparatory work is required for such a visit to take place. She, however, said that this preparatory work is beginning to happen.