BeyondHeadlines News Desk
New Delhi: Pakistan’s first female and youngest-ever Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, 34, was quickly on to the front foot as she broached the topic of sports diplomacy during her meeting with SM Krishna on Wednesday. Batting for resumption of cricketing ties, Khar told Krishna that the game had the potential to bring closer the two countries at a time when people were keen on peace.
Khar made the point that the time was particularly ripe for resuming Test series between the two nations. There has been no bilateral series since the Mumbai attacks in 2008. In fact, no international team has toured Pakistan since March 2009 when the Sri Lankans were attacked in Lahore by terrorists.
Krishna responded, saying India was keen on resuming sporting ties and hoped India would soon host the Pakistani cricket team and vice versa. While cricket did not find specific mention in the joint statement, it said the two ministers emphasized on holding sports tournaments. Khar is also learnt to have pitched for cricket matches between the women’s teams of the two countries.
The idea played on throughout her visit. At Wednesday’s dinner in the Pakistan high commission, she asked BCCI vice-president and MoS for parliamentary affairs Rajeev Shukla to work towards initiating an India-Pakistan cricket series.
BCCI vice-president Rajeev Shukla is learnt to have assured visiting Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar that resumption of an Indo-Pak cricket series would be discussed at the BCCI meeting scheduled for next month. A series is said to be tentatively scheduled for next year but it has not been confirmed yet.
The BCCI and the Pakistan cricket board recently held a meeting in Hong Kong on the sidelines of the ICC annual conference in which resumption of bilateral cricketing ties was discussed.
Khar, a polo enthusiast herself, may have taken some tips from her 11-year-old son, a cricket enthusiast who accompanied her to India. For a Pakistan cricket board that is struggling to remain afloat, it is imperative to engage India in a bilateral series not just to generate revenues but also to give the right message to other Test nations who are shying away from playing there.
In India though, it is likely to be seen by many, including opposition parties, as a major concession to Pakistan. Krishna had said in April that India had agreed to play matches with Pakistan while going ahead with peace talks, leading to BJP condemning the statement. The opposition party maintains that cricket ties should be revived only if there is a change in Pakistan’s attitude towards terror.