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Cricket diplomacy at play in charged Lahore

Brajesh Mishra watched the Lahore ODI in the company of Pakistani finance minister in one of hospitality boxes, writes Avirook Sen.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2004 00:11 IST
Avirook Sen
Avirook Sen

National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, who isn't a great cricket fan, watched the Lahore one-day international in the company of Pakistani Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz in one of Gaddafi Stadium's hospitality boxes. Both men had been specially nominated by their bosses to be present at the game, suggesting the high stakes the two governments have in the series.

In case you hadn't noticed, there's more than just cricket going on.

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee was keen that there be a high-powered Indian presence in both the Lahore games — given the city's specially strong Indian connection. He was invited by the PCB to attend the matches here but eventually decided to ask Mishra to go.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf requested Aziz to be at the stadium and watch the game with Mishra, according to sources. The Finance Minister, unlike Mishra, is very much a cricket fan.

Mishra flew into Lahore on Saturday, and within a few hours of checking in at the State Guest House, he met Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri at a private dinner for a slice of Lahore's elite hosted by Pakistani textile tycoon Humayun Shaikh. Shaikh owns the Nafees group, one of the country's oldest industrial houses.

Kasuri and Mishra's meeting was a "chance one" said a source, adding that the two men did talk and it would be "naïve to think they didn't discuss bilateral relations at all".

Mishra's arrival gave rise to speculation that Vajpayee himself may decide to fly in for the last one-dayer in Lahore. That would have been the icing on the cricket-for-peace cake, but it's highly unlikely, according to authoritative sources. The Prime Minister has already scheduled election rallies in Uttar Pradesh for the 24th. But Indian Sports Minister Vikram Verma is likely to attend.

First Published: Mar 22, 2004 00:00 IST