India and Pakistan hoped that the first cricket match between the two countries since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks will help improve diplomatic relations between the two neighboring countries, which have a complicated history.
The hopes were lit after Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari received an invitation from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to watch the semi-final match between the two countries during the world cricket championship in Mohali city, Punjab state. Cricket is a favorite sport in both India and Pakistan.
The aides said they hope that the match and the opportunity for the two leaders to talk intimately will help improve the tense atmosphere and motivate new negotiations to be conducted.
Although their meeting is described as “unofficial”, it will take place under the most stringent security guarantee ever in a cricket match amid fears of a terrorist attack.
India has declared the skies above the stadium a “no fly zone”. There will be a paramilitary security circle around the stadium and a drone that will operate in the area to monitor.
Earlier this month, Pakistani officials arrested a suspected man planning an attack on the world cricket championship when he arrived in Karachi to catch a flight to Sri Lanka. The memories of the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore still haunt Indian security officials.
High-ranking Pakistani officials said President Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had accepted an invitation from the Indian Prime Minister last Saturday evening after a meeting with the Pakistani Army Commander-in-Chief, General Kiyani.
They hope the leaders will pave the way for negotiations over territorial disputes between the two countries, easing visa regulations for merchants and those over 65.
India-Pakistan relations have been strained since the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which India accuses extremist Pakistanis of being the mastermind. The two neighboring nations have been fighting for three wars since gaining independence from the British colonialists in 1947.