India invites Pakistan leaders to cricket cup semi

NEW DELHI, (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister  Manmohan Singh has invited the Pakistani president and prime  minister to watch Wednesday’s cricket match between the two  South Asian rivals in what is being dubbed “cricket diplomacy”.
The two teams will meet in the semi-final of the cricket  World Cup in the northern Indian town of Mohali in a hotly  anticipated match after India knocked out Australia on Thursday.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman in Islamabad said the  invitation had been received but had no comment whether a  decision had been made to accept it.
Relations between the neighbours have been tense since the  2008 Mumbai attacks blamed on Pakistani-based militants.
“There is huge excitement over the match and we are all  looking forward to a great game of cricket, that will be a  victory for sport,” Singh wrote in a letter to Pakistani  President Asif Ali Zardari, according to a government statement.
“It gives me great pleasure to invite you to visit Mohali  and join me and the millions of fans from our two countries to  watch the match.”
India and Pakistan have been slowly trying to repair  relations and in February agreed to resume formal peace talks  broken off in the wake of the Mumbai attack in which 166 people  were killed. The talks are expected to start again in July.
Singh has pushed the peace process between the two  nuclear-armed rivals, which have gone to war three times,  despite scepticism inside his own government.
On Monday, a Pakistani delegation led by the home secretary  will arrive in New Delhi to lay the groundwork for July’s  expected talks.
In 2009, the U.S. ambassador in New Delhi observed that  Singh was isolated within his government in his “great belief”  in talks with Pakistan, a WikiLeaks cable published in the  newspaper The Hindu.
“Cricket diplomacy” between the two countries is not new.  Pakistan’s Former President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq paid a similar  visit to India in 1987.

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