Pak media bats for peace, says Singh-Gilani meet rare chance

Islamabad: The meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani during the World Cup semi-final is "a rare chance" to patch up relations and pave way for more efforts to build cooperation and peace, the Pakistani media said.

"This latest chapter in cricket diplomacy represents a rare chance for the two countries to patch up relations that have been strained since 2008," The Express Tribune newspaper said in an editorial titled `Unite and rule`.

The News daily, in an editorial, said: "The talks which take place between overs on a cricket ground may not in themselves be very substantial".

"But they could pave the way for far more meaningful efforts to move toward cooperation and peace in the future".

Sport, which is the equivalent of ancient war, can draw out fierce passions and open bigotry, The Express Tribune noted.

However, it can also be a powerful uniting force that brings people together and Prime Minister Singh`s "generous invitation" to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to join him at Mohali to watch the cricket World Cup semi-final between Pakistan and India represents this side of sport", it added.

The Pakistan government announced today that Gilani had accepted Singh`s invitation and would travel to India to watch the match on March 30.

"And amidst the roar of the crowds at Mohali, relations between the two countries could move back onto an even keel," The Express Tribune said.

Both newspapers noted that India had made efforts to improve ties with Pakistan, including special security arrangements for the Pakistani cricket team in light of threats of a possible attack and easing of the visa process for Pakistani fans.

Though the clash at Mohali will be tense, it could "offer an opportunity to move beyond the world of cricket, into the arena of regional relations", The Tribune said.

"The benefits of closer ties are obvious. They come in the economic sphere, in terms of people-to-people relations and in many other areas.

"Building trust with India could be the key to dealing with issues of extremism and militancy," it said.

"Looking to the East could be crucial to moving beyond the realm of violence, based on warped religious belief into which we have moved. If cricket can help achieve this, the contribution of the sport would be an enormous one, going beyond any feats on the field itself, no matter how dramatic these may be," it added.

The cricketing contest, The News said, could help "create the friendship that is so badly needed. In more ways than one, this is vital for the future of both countries and their people".

PTI

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