Cricket has key role in Indo-Pak peace, says Shahryar Khan
London: Veteran Pakistani diplomat Shahryar Khan on Friday said that revival of cricket ties between India and Pakistan can play an important role in the peace process between the two neighbours.
"A series between the two countries has tremendous importance as cricket is such an obsession in both countries," Khan told reporters at a pre-launch event here organised by the Indian Journalists` Association for his new book `Cricket Cauldron: The Turbulent Politics of Sport in Pakistan`.
"The ICC (International Cricket Council) Task Force report [prepared by English Cricket Board chief Giles Clarke] states clearly that the India-Pakistan series needs to be revived because it is even more important than the Ashes. Somehow if it were to happen, I think it would be a very major factor in the peace process," he said.
The man appointed special envoy by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to improve relations with India also narrowed down a three-pronged strategy for revival of ties between the two sub-continental neighbours.
"We need to focus on relations in terms of the low-lying fruit that is ready to be plucked to get things on track. These would include revival of trade ties and resolution of the Sir Creek issue. In the medium term, the Siachen dispute and a better visa regime will go a long way in confidence building. There is an urgent need for an Indian consulate in Karachi," Khan said.
"The longer term goals, which are more complex and require detailed work, such as the Kashmir issue, can then be tackled once these two levels are in place," said the former Pakistan foreign secretary, spelling out his vision for India-Pakistan diplomacy in the near future.
Khan, however, stressed that the recent "extremist attacks" on the Kashmir border must not be allowed to derail the potential of peace talks.
"These attacks must be looked at in the proper perspective. No government or Army can be behind such attacks. Therefore, mature governance is needed on both sides to ensure extremists are not allowed to sabotage and derail the peace process," he said.
Referring to his visit to India last month to hand over a letter from Sharif to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he added, "The Indian Prime Minister was extremely forthcoming and both PMs are utterly sincere in trying to achieve better relations between India and Pakistan. I look forward to meeting Dr Singh again in New York next month."
The former Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman is in London for the official launch of his book here next week.
Describing it as a "view of Pakistan through the prism of cricket", Khan also tackles all the major controversies associated with the game in recent times.
The book goes on to document a series of personal anecdotes, including the visit of Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi to Karachi during the India-Pakistan series back in 2004.
"It was during that series that it became obvious how any animosity among the crowds had disappeared. The Indian team was welcomed with applause and cheers. It was a clear message that it is time to move forward and no politician could ignore that message," he said.