by Munir Ahmed & Ashok Sharma, AP
India is sending its top foreign ministry official to Pakistan to resume talks after a six-month hiatus.
Taking advantage of the Cricket World Cup, where their teams play this weekend, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted Friday he spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the phone and offered to further strengthen ties.
Sharif welcomed the Indian official’s proposed visit to Pakistan “to discuss all issues of common interest,” Sharif’s press secretary said in a statement in Islamabad. No dates have been announced for the visit.
Modi also said he spoke to leaders of some of India’s other neighbors — Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan — all cricket-mad nations participating in the sports competition being jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
“Conveyed my best wishes for the Cricket World Cup,” Modi said.
India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar is also scheduled to visit Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan apart from Pakistan, Modi said.
Last August, India called off talks with Pakistan after its ambassador in New Delhi met with Kashmiri separatist leaders, saying the Pakistani official could either talk with India, or talk with the rebels.
The setback came shortly after India and Pakistan had agreed to resume talks in May when Sharif attended Modi’s inauguration.
As tensions increased, Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged fire regularly in the disputed Kashmir region.
India and Pakistan have used “cricket diplomacy” to break past impasses.
Then-Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met with then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2011 during a World Cup cricket match in the northern city of Chandigarh, using the same cover employed in 2005 by then-President Pervez Musharraf for a meeting with Singh during an India-Pakistan cricket match.
Then-President Ziaul Haq visited Jaipur, India, to watch a cricket match between the two countries in the 1980s.
Since their independence from Britain in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir. Both countries control parts of the Himalayan region and claim it in its entirety.