Modi calls Nawaz Sharif wishing luck in World Cup


New Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif Friday to wish his cricket team luck in an ice-breaker conversation ahead of a World Cup grudge match between the arch rivals.

Modi said “cricket connects people in our region and promotes goodwill” after speaking with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other South Asian leaders whose country’s teams are playing in the World Cup starting Saturday.

“Spoke to President @ashrafghani, PM Sheikh Hasina, PM Nawaz Sharif & President Sirisena. Conveyed my best wishes for the Cricket World Cup,” Modi also tweeted.

“Hope players from SAARC region play with passion & bring laurels to the region,” he said, referring to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Millions of India and Pakistan fans are expected to watch Sunday’s clash on television, while thousands of others are set to flock to the Adelaide Oval in Australia.

Modi’s cricket diplomacy comes after relations soured last year between the two nuclear-armed neighbours over increased firing along their borders and cancelled peace talks between their officials.

Modi’s government is seen taking a more assertive stance towards its neighbour since coming to power last May. Modi and Sharif failed to hold a bilateral meeting at a SAARC summit in November.

India’s new foreign secretary S. Jaishankar will soon visit his South Asian neighbours, Modi also tweeted, although he did not mention Pakistan specifically.

Sharif’s office released a statement about Modi’s phone call but did not mention any bonhomie shared over cricket.

“Modi informed the Prime Minister that India’s new Foreign Secretary will soon visit all SAARC counties and would also like to visit Pakistan,” the statement said.

India abruptly cancelled peace talks last year between their foreign secretaries, angered that Pakistan consulted Kashmiri separatist leaders before the dialogue began.

Pakistan and India, who have fought two of their three wars over disputed Muslim-majority Kashmir, have traded blame for an upsurge in firing and shelling which started in October last year.

Exchanges of firing across their de facto border and undisputed border further south have killed more than two dozen civilians and forced thousands to flee their homes on both sides. (AFP)