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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 March, 2004, 09:42 GMT
India begin historic cricket tour
Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar arrives with the Indian team in Lahore
Hundreds of police provided security for the team's arrival in Lahore
The Indian cricket team has arrived in Pakistan for a historic five-week tour - their first there after a break of nearly 15 years.

A special flight carrying the Indians touched down at Lahore's Allama Iqbal International airport at 1347 (0847 GMT).

The visit is being seen as a potent symbol of warming relations between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Delhi and Islamabad will hold talks later this year on their long-running dispute over Kashmir.

Hundreds of policemen were deployed at the airport and at the team hotel to provide security cover.

Police check at the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore
Lahore's Gaddafi stadium is given a security sweep on Wednesday
"We are absolutely delighted they are coming," said Rameez Raja, chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board. "We will be gracious hosts."

"It [the tour] transcends sports, it is much more than cricket, it is passion," said former cricket star-turned politician Imran Khan.

Ahead of their departure from Delhi, the India players were briefed by senior police officials.

Two Indian security officials are also accompanying the team on their tour.

Cricket fever

The players also met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee ahead of their departure and presented him with a cricket bat signed by the entire team.

"Play the game in the spirit of the game, and win hearts also," Mr Vajpayee told them.

India captain Sourav Ganguly said his team wanted to concentrate on the cricket.

But the long-awaited tour has provoked a huge amount of excitement and anticipation in both countries.

Thousands of Indians have bought tickets over the internet to watch the matches and will travel to Pakistan.

1999: India and Pakistan soldiers fight on Kashmir peaks in the Kargil conflict
2001: Agra summit between Musharraf and Vajpayee ends in failure
2001: Militant attack on India's parliament leads to diplomatic breakdown
2002: Massing of troops along border brings both sides close to all out war
2004: Landmark summit in Islamabad in which the two sides agree to discuss all issues

Most will be visiting Pakistan for the first time.

Millions are expected to watch the matches on television.

But a row between Indian cable television operators and the Dubai-based sports channel that is broadcasting the games has threatened viewers with a blackout.

Many cable television operators are refusing to pay the inflated prices demanded by the company and the channel has been blacked out in many cities.

The Indians begin the tour with a warm-up game on Thursday.

The first one-day international between India and Pakistan takes place on Saturday in Karachi.

Improved ties

The tour comes on the back of a warming of relations between India and Pakistan, since an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001.

India broke off diplomatic and other links with Pakistan after the attack and the two sides came close to all-out war in the summer of 2002, with thousands of soldiers massed along their borders.

International pressure forced both sides to back down and a ceasefire has been in place since late last year.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed region of Kashmir.

The BBC's Paul Anderson
"The security arrangements are fit for presidents"

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