Pakistan's prime minister will visit India to watch a World Cup semifinal between the two countries next week, the government said Sunday, adding a dollop of international diplomacy to what is already a highly anticipated cricket match.
India and Pakistan have played at neutral venues since the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, which India said were carried out by Pakistani-based militants. The attacks killed 166 people, plunging relations to a new low.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had accepted the invitation of his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, to watch the match, the government said in a brief statement Sunday. The two leaders last met in April 2009 for 15 minutes in the capital of the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, on the sidelines of a regional meeting of South Asian countries.
Low-level peace talks that ended after the Mumbai attacks have recently began again, though suspicion and hatred run deep on both sides and no one expects a breakthrough anytime soon. It remains very hard for citizens of both countries to get permission to travel to the other.
The government did not say whether the leaders would hold talks on any of the issues that bedevil ties.
In 2005, talks between Singh and Pakistan's gen. Pervez Musharraf, who was president at the time, were squeezed around a Sunday cricket match in New Delhi. And in 1987, president Zia-ul Haq also went to India to watch a test match in Jaipur at the invitation of prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The two met and held discussions after the match in Delhi.
The main point of contention is over Kashmir, a Himalayan territory which is divided between the two countries but which both claim in its entirety. Both maintain heavily armed deployments along a ceasefire line running through the region and occasionally trade fire.
India says Pakistan sponsors or does not crack down on militants that stage attacks inside its borders, including the Mumbai attacks. Pakistani denies this, but many western governments say Pakistan has not yet fully severed its ties with the militant groups.
In February, both countries announced they were resuming talks aimed at restarting the peace process, and Pakistan's foreign minister is due to visit India by July.