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Modi Calls Sharif Ahead of World Cup Match

by AFP


Pakistan is due to face India in its first World Cup match on Feb. 15.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called his Pakistani counterpart on Friday to wish his cricket team luck in an icebreaker conversation ahead of a World Cup grudge match between the rivals.

Modi said “cricket connects people in our region and promotes goodwill” after speaking with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other South Asian leaders whose country’s teams are playing in the World Cup starting Saturday. “Spoke to President @ashrafghani, PM Sheikh Hasina, PM Nawaz Sharif & President Sirisena. Conveyed my best wishes for the Cricket World Cup,” Modi also tweeted. “Hope players from SAARC region play with passion & bring laurels to the region,” he said, referring to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Millions of India and Pakistan fans are expected to watch Sunday’s clash on television, while thousands of others are set to flock to the Adelaide Oval in Australia. Modi’s cricket diplomacy comes after relations soured last year between the two neighbors over increased firing along their borders and cancelled peace talks between their officials.

Modi’s government is seen taking a more assertive stance toward its neighbor since coming to power last May. Modi and Sharif failed to hold a bilateral meeting at a SAARC summit in November.

India’s new foreign secretary S. Jaishankar will soon visit his South Asian neighbors, Modi also tweeted, although he did not mention Pakistan specifically.

Sharif’s office released a statement about Modi’s phone call but did not mention any bonhomie shared over cricket. “Modi informed the prime minister that India’s new foreign secretary will soon visit all SAARC counties and would also like to visit Pakistan,” the statement said.

India abruptly cancelled peace talks last year between their foreign secretaries, angered that Pakistan consulted Kashmiri separatist leaders before the dialogue began.

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