Thatscricket - News - 'Pak series will help to improve bilateral ties'

Published: Monday, February 2, 2004, 17:52 [IST]
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Karachi:Next month's cricket series between Pakistan and India will boost peace moves and improve bilateral ties between the South Asian nuclear rivals besides bringing the people closer, Pakistan cricket chief said.

"The bilateral relationship between the two countries has improved and this tour will further help in bringing people of the two countries closer," chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Shaharyar Khan told.

India is scheduled to play a side game, three Tests and five One-day games on the tour, their first in Pakistan for 14 years.

India stalled all bilateral cricketing relations with Pakistan following an attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001 and only allowed its team to compete against Pakistan in multi-national events like the World Cup.

In October last year, New Delhi lifted the ban in one of the confidence building measures that were part of recent peace process and gave permission to its team to undertake a tour to Pakistan.

The Indian team will get top security, equivalent to the one provided to heads of the state, Khan said. "A three-member Indian security team is due in Pakistan after three-day Eid festival to assess the situation, but I don't see any problem as people are anxiously waiting for the series," Khan said.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has changed the image of Pakistan to being a foreign friendly and tolerant nation, he said.

"The international view of Pakistan has gone through a difficult phase since 9/11. Foreign teams had refused to tour, foreign tourists had gone, diplomats had gone. But things have improved now with cricket teams touring our country," Khan said.

Not only was the Indian cricket team coming, but a large number of the Indian public is also expected to witness the series in Pakistan, he said. "India have been in Pakistan before, but I think in our history this is the most important series," Khan said.

In reply to a question, he agreed that any incident could have a magnified impact, both from the cricketing point of view as well as diplomatically. "We have to make sure that few individuals don't create problems and I am sure the tour will go on. But yes, one incident could have a magnified impact," Khan said.

India has not raised any objections to its cricket team playing in the port city of Karachi or North West Frontier Province (NWFP) capital Peshawar, some 45-kilometres (27 miles) from border with Afghanistan, he said. "The matches will be played both in Karachi and Peshawar," he said.

The New Zealand team abandoned a cricket tour of Pakistan after a suicide car bomb on May 8, 2002, outside Karachi's Sheraton hotel, which killed 11 French engineers.

The black-caps refused to play in Karachi during their tour of Pakistan in December last year, but finally a team was sent.

India is sending a three-member delegation to assess security for the tour, after which the final itinerary will be announced. "I have asked the government for top security, but I don't know whether they will deploy commandos or paramilitary rangers," he said.

Khan also indicated that surveillance cameras may be installed in the stadium and that people would be searched at the entrance gates.

Relations between Pakistan and India are improving after Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Musharraf met last month agreed to restore talks to resolve their disputes, including the festering problem of Kashmir, during a landmark meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit in Islamabad.

Foreign secretary level talks between India and Pakistan are scheduled to be held in Islamabad from February 16 to 18.

PCB begins security drill at venues

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