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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 13:49 GMT
India cricket invite to Musharraf
President Musharraf
President Musharraf - checking his diary
India has invited Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to watch the countries' cricket series in India.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told parliament he hoped the president and his family would enjoy their visit.

A Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman said the president was now looking at his diary to see whether he could go.

If he accepts, it would be his first trip to India since a summit between the two countries ended acrimoniously in the Indian city of Agra in 2001.

'Cricket diplomacy'

"I do hope [President Musharraf] and his family will enjoy their visit to our country," Mr Singh told India's lower house of parliament.

We are looking at the schedule of the president
Pakistan foreign office spokesman

"I must say ... Nothing brings the people of the subcontinent together more than our love for cricket and Bollywood."

Gen Musharraf said last week he would love to see some of the cricket series - but only if invited.

Pakistan said a decision on whether to accept the invitation from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be taken shortly.

"We are looking at the schedule of the president. The decision will be taken keeping in view the convenience of the president," foreign office spokesman Jalil Abbas Jilani said.

The first Test in the cricket series is already under way in Mohali, in India's Punjab state. It is Pakistan's first tour to India in six years.

Thousands of Pakistanis have obtained visas to travel to the game.

Gen Musharraf's hint that he may attend echoes the "cricket diplomacy" coined by former Pakistani leader Gen Zia-ul Haq, who watched a match in Jaipur in 1987 during a time of strained bilateral relations.

Indian cricket fans at Mohali stadium
A cordial atmosphere has characterised the latest test match

Gen Musharraf paid a brief visit to the northern Pakistani city of Rawalpindi to watch some of a one-day game last year during the Indian team's landmark visit.

Sporting ties are an important bellwether of bilateral relations and suffered in recent years before a rapprochement instigated by former Indian premier Atal Behari Vajpayee in April 2003.

The two countries fought three wars since independence in 1947 and went to the brink of a fourth in 2002.

A row between them broke out after President Musharraf's visit for the Agra summit, which broke down without any joint declaration.

Pakistan accused India of giving a distorted picture of the talks, while India repeated its assertion that Pakistan was sponsoring what it called cross-border terrorism.

But last year's Indian cricket tour to Pakistan was considered a great success.

The current tour comprises three Tests and six one-day games.

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