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Pakistan prime minister in India for cricket diplomacy

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
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Cricket match brings business to a halt
  • Several times in the past cricket has been used to ease tensions between the two nations
  • The relationship between the two nation was frayed by the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai
  • More than 160 people were killed in the siege of Mumbai which is blamed on Pakistani militants

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- Pakistan's prime minister, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, arrived in India Wednesday to watch a Cricket World Cup match between the two archrival teams as the nuclear neighbors try to repair ties wounded by the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai.

"We all must enjoy cricket," Gilani told reporters after landing at Chandigarh, near Punjab's Mohali city, which is hosting the semifinal between India and Pakistan.

The Pakistani leader was watching the high-pitched match with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh, who had invited him last week to Wednesday's game.

The South Asian rivals, which have fought three wars since the blood-soaked partition of the Asian subcontinent in 1947, have in the past too used cricket as a platform to ease relations.

When cricket means more than just a match

In 2005, Singh and then-Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf saw a cricket match at a New Delhi stadium.

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In 1987, Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Pakistan Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq attended a similar game in Jaipur.

Gilani's visit came a day after his country agreed in principle to allow a tour by an Indian commission in connection with the investigations into the Mumbai assault blamed on Pakistani militant groups.

In their talks Tuesday in New Delhi, Indian and Pakistani home secretaries also pledged to set up a "hotline" on terror threats.

"Both sides agreed to set up a hotline between (the) home secretary of India and (the) interior secretary of Pakistan to facilitate real-time information-sharing with respect to terrorist threats," said a joint statement issued at the end of their talks.

More than 160 people were killed in the November 2008 siege of Mumbai that derailed a fragile peace process between the two nations. According to the joint statement, India also promised to host a Pakistani judicial panel to study the trial proceedings related to the case.

"Dates for the visit of the judicial commission from Pakistan in connection with (the) Mumbai attack trial will be conveyed by India within four (to) six weeks," the statement read.

A Mumbai court has imposed a death sentence on Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving Pakistani gunman from the three-day terror siege of the city. Kasab's lawyers say their client plans to challenge the sentence in India's supreme court in New Delhi.

In their discussions, Indian home secretary Pillai briefed the Pakistani side on his country's investigations into a deadly bombing of a Pakistan-bound train, about 80 kilometers from New Delhi, four years ago.

Some Hindu nationalists are now the key suspects in the 2007 firebombing on the Samjhauta (Friendship) Express train that left 68 passengers dead. The attack was initially believed to be the work of Islamist militants.

"Both sides reiterated their commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the need to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice," the statement said.