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Sunday, February 15, 2015, Falgun 3, 1421 BS, Robi-Us-Sani 22, 1436 Hijr

Modi's cricket diplomacy may break ice in South Asia
Saleem Samad
Published : Sunday, 15 February, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 156
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demonstrated that cricket diplomacy can break the ice in South Asia.
Modi adopted Twiplomacy, use of Twitter, a social media which is bringing diplomacy back to relevancy.
Ahead of the high-profile cricket tournament last Friday Modi called his arch rival Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif and other heads of the SAARC nations participating in the all-important Cricket World Cup and conveyed best wishes for the showpiece event.
He spoke to (Afghan) President Ashraf Ghani, (Bangladesh) Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and (Sri Lankan) President (Maithripala) Sirisena, Modi tweeted.
He noted that five South Asian countries are playing and are excited about the World Cup, Modi said, "(I) am sure WC will celebrate sportsman spirit and will be a treat for sport lovers. Cricket connects people in our region and promotes goodwill. Hope players from SAARC region play with passion and bring laurels to the region."
Apart from talking cricket the telephone calls from Modi to South Asian leaders was an important development and he spoke on other pending issues and assured of resolving those to further strengthen regional relations. This was the first dialogue after the face-to-face dialogue with the leaders after they met at Kathmandu in November last year.
Modi did not schedule any sideline meeting with the Pakistan leader, but Nawaz Sharif took an opportunity to shake hands with his Indian counterpart at the last moment, which save the SAARC Summit.
Taking to micro blogging site, in a series of tweets, Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) posted 15 tweets for the 15-member Indian squad, who will open their World Cup title defence against arch-rivals Pakistan on February 15.
Both India and Pakistan face off in what is expected to be a fiery encounter today (Sunday) in the team first match in the World Cup.
India-Pakistan clashes always create a lot of buzz among cricket fanatics and it is no different this time as the high-octane encounter is once again ready to enthral fans, this time during the World Cup at the Adelaide Oval.
Modi tweets ranks third with 7.6 million followers and still rising. Barak Obama (49.2 million) tops the global Twiplomacy ranking, followed by Pope Francis (16.3 million).
The Indian leader Modi, who has taken all efforts to raise his proactive public profile tweeted that he would be sending country's new Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on a 'SAARC Yatra (journey)' to "further strengthen our ties."
Jaishankar's visit to Pakistan will be significant given that India had cancelled Foreign Secretary-level talks in last August after the Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi held consultations with the Kashmiri separatists on the eve of the Indo-Pak talks.
Prime Minister's remarks came a day after Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit met Jaishankar on Thursday. The meeting was described as a courtesy call by the officials.
The sign of a thaw in ties comes weeks after a visit to India by US President Barack Obama.
The exchange of pleasantries follows a spell of escalated tensions between Indian and Pakistan. Just before President Barack Obama's visit last month to India, the two countries traded bellicose rhetoric as well as shellfire.
The United States has long privately encouraged dialogue between India and Pakistan hoping that better ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours could lead to cooperation in other areas such as Afghanistan.
Radio Pakistan reported that bilateral relations and matters of mutual interests were discussed during the telephone conversation between Sharif and Modi. The report further said that Prime Minister Sharif told his Indian counterpart that Pakistan wants resolution of all outstanding disputes with India through dialogue.
Nawaz Sharif was further quoted in the report as saying that dialogue between Pakistan and India is imperative for peace and stability in the region, adding that Pakistan desires friendly relations with all its neighbours.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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