Pakistan PM accepts India cricket match invitation | Pakistan PM accepts India invitation
Pakistan PM accepts India cricket match invitation: In a victory for “cricket diplomacy”, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has accepted an invitation to visit India to watch the World Cup semi-final between the two arch-rivals.
Wednesday’s match in Mohali will be the first between the two sides on Indian soil since the 2008 Mumbai attacks by Pakistan-based militants.
“It was decided in response to the Indian prime minister’s invitation that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will visit India to witness the semi-final cricket match,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said in a statement Sunday.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday invited Pakistan’s president and prime minister to watch the match which will showcase one of the world’s most intense sporting rivalries, fuelled by nationalism and a shared history.
Analysts said Singh’s invitation was aimed at improving the environment for talks between the two nations.
Relations are still tense following the Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead and stalled a fragile four-year peace process between the two nuclear-armed South Asian rivals.
“These kinds of visits do not suggest an instant solution to the problems but break the stalemate, help improve the environment which facilitates talks,” analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.
Pakistan is holding seven suspects over the attacks on India’s financial capital, including the alleged mastermind of the operation, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative Zarar Shah.
India and Washington blamed the Mumbai siege on banned Pakistani militant group LeT.
Top officials from India and Pakistan are due to hold talks in Delhi from March 28 focusing on counter-terrorism, narcotics control and humanitarian issues.
“The diplomats will now be more relaxed in their dialogue but as the issues are complex, their solution will take time,” Askari said.
“This development also shows that India is now really interested in resuming dialogue on all contentious issues.”
The two countries announced the resumption of peace talks last month after a meeting between Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu.
The international community has been pushing the two sides to get back to the negotiating table to help ease tensions in an already volatile region.
Relations between India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, have been plagued by border and resource disputes, and accusations of Pakistani militant activity against India.
The pair embarked on a formal peace dialogue in 2004, which continued until the rupture caused by the Mumbai attacks.
They began to explore a resumption of structured talks last year, and Singh and Gilani met in Thimphu in April 2010.
A knock-out World Cup match on Indian soil is the biggest fixture between the rivals for decades and excitement is already at fever-pitch.
India have beaten Pakistan in all four of their World Cup meetings.
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