US backs Pakistan-India cricket diplomacy

Lahore Gadaffi Stadium, Photo Credit Wikipedia

WASHINGTON, July 24: With Pakistan and India poised to resume bilateral cricket series in the near future, the United States has expressed its backing for the move, saying Americans don’t understand cricket very much but like it, when two regional countries – of key interest to the U.S. – play the sport.

  “We’re for cricket.  We don’t understand it, but we like it,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said during the daily briefing.

 The spokesperson’s laughter-provoking but meaningful comments came in response to a question about developments regarding revival of Pakistan and India cricket contests, as part of public diplomacy to improve environment for better bilateral relations.

 Cricket, being the most popular sport in both Pakistan and India, regular bilateral series between the two historically troubled neighbors are seen as a sign of thaw and a desire for peaceful coexistence. The matches between Pakistan and India, contested in a spirit of both intense competition and rivalry as regional cricket powers, are followed by tens of millions of fans across the region and world beyond.

 New Delhi suspended a five-year old peace process between the two countries in the wake of deadly November 2008 bombings in Mumbai city, which it blamed on Pakistan-linked militants. Over the past several months, Islamabad and New Delhi have started crawling out of the impasse, with both taking some steps to spur two-way trade. However, the two nuclear neighbors are still a far cry from making worthwhile progress on several security and political issues including some recent water-related controversies and decades-old Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

 At the State Department briefing, the spokesperson said Washington has all along been aiding the South Asian peace overtures and stands for encouraging the two neighbors to follow progress in some areas like trade relations with moves towards trust building, improving counterterrorism cooperation and taking on political issues.

Speaking in the larger perspective of Pakistani-Indian relations, Victoria Nuland said Washington shares the “interest of people in India, people in Pakistan – – – in seeing these two countries continuing to improve their relationship.”

  “We have been supportive in all of our diplomatic encounters at every level with the Indian side, with the Pakistani side in some of the progress that they’ve made,” Nuland noted.

 She noted with appreciation the fact that Islamabad and New Delhi have made “considerable progress” on the economic side. 

 “We are encouraging them to do better on issues like sharing counterterrorism information, dealing with threats to both countries, moving forward to work on trust (building) and political issues, so we will continue (to) support dialogue between them at every level, but it’s obviously up to Indians and Pakistanis to continue to work on this.”

 With respect to dealing with the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai bombings and bringing people to justice, the spokesperson said, that issue “comes up in all of our discussions with Indians and with Pakistanis.”

 “And we’ll continue to advocate for full justice being served, not least because Americans lost their lives as well.”

 Questioned about Pakistan’s demand for end to drone attacks against suspected militant targets in Pakistani tribal areas, a sensitive subject in Pakistan-US relations, Nuland said she would not talk about intelligence matters.

 But she expressed Washington’s satisfaction that transportation of supplies through Pakistani border-crossings into Afghanistan has picked up.

 “What I will say on Pakistan is that we’ve got good news with regard to the ground lines of communication,” she said.

 “As you know, they’ve been open for some week and a half, two weeks now, and we have some 400 trucks either having passed or getting ready to pass through.  And so that is working very well,” Nuland added.



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