Top Indians rush to Pakistan for cricket

March 12, 2004 at 1:38 PM
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NEW DELHI, March 12 (UPI) -- Top India politicians and other celebrities are making a beeline to neighboring Pakistan to watch the much-anticipated cricket series between the two rivals.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said Friday Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the children of Indian opposition leader Sonia Gandhi, will be state guests during their three-day stay in Pakistan.

Top politicians, business leaders, sports and Bollywood stars are also attending India's first cricket tour to Pakistan since 1989. Some 8,000 Indians are expected to attend in what is being described as the largest civilian crossing of the border since 1947, when the two countries received independence.

Indian Airlines, the domestic carrier, has announced additional flights to Pakistan for the games, which begin Saturday. An airline spokesman said more than 1,450 additional seats between Delhi and Lahore were being catered from March 19 to 25.

The series was agreed to after a thaw in relations between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

And in anticipation of the thaw continuing Jagmohan Dalmiya, the head of India's cricket board, said Pakistan would be invited to play a cricket series in India next year.

"The Pakistan-India series will ... help us defuse the tension prevalent in the ties of the two neighboring states," Dalmiya told reporters at Karachi.

Pakistan last traveled to India in 1999, after calling off two 1991 and 1993 tours following threats of violence by Hindu zealots.

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