In a significant step towards improving bilateral relations, India and Pakistan will resume cricketing ties that were frozen after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Pakistan had strongly pitched for resuming cricketing ties during the foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries early this month.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that India and Pakistan would play three one-day internationals and two T20 matches in December 2012-January 2013 after a gap of five years.
The ODIs will be played in Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi and two T20 matches will be played in Bangalore and Ahmedabad.
The move to revive bilateral cricketing ties was proposed by then Pakistani PM Yousaf Raza Gilani when he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Mohali during the World Cup semi-final between the two countries in 2010.
While the UPA-2 government has always maintained that the decision on resuming cricket was to be taken by the BCCI alone, Monday's announcement came with an approval — even encouragement — from the government. Sources said senior ministers have been in touch with the board on the issue.
The security of the players and issuance of visas to fans who may come from Pakistan are matters dealt with by the home ministry.
"The home minister and external affairs minister both know of the decision and are totally fine with it," said Rajiv Shukla, union minister and BCCI vice-president.
Pakistan has been keen on hosting India to end the international isolation that came with the terror attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore in 2009.
The Congress gave a guarded approval to the move. "Sports and politics should not be inter-linked. We have said it earlier, and we would continue to reiterate that Pakistan must stop terrorism from its soil. We will never hesitate to remind Pakistan of its responsibilities," said party spokesperson Manish Tiwari.
The BJP has not officially responded to the cricketing move, but the party is unlikely to oppose it, given that senior leader Arun Jaitley is also a vice-president of the BCCI.