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Indian, Pakistani Leaders Attend Cricket Showdown

VOA News March 30, 2011

Life for more than a billion people across India and Pakistan came to a standstill Wednesday, as the nuclear-armed neighbors battled on the cricket field for the World Cup semi-final match.

Pakistan took its turn to bat late in the day after a series of dropped balls allowed India to reach 260 runs. The winner will play Sri Lanka in the final in Mumbai Saturday.

Tickets for the semifinal match have been sold out for days, and most businesses and offices in both countries are closed during the play.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, showed a rare unified front, as they watched the match together from a private box at the stadium in the northern Indian city of Mohali. They also joined each other for dinner.

The show of friendly competition follows two days of peace talks between the two countries. Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and Pakistan's Interior Secretary Chaudhary Qamar Zaman met in New Delhi this week.

It was the first formal dialogue since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, during which Pakistan-based militants killed 166 people.

In a joint statement Tuesday, Islamabad agreed "in principle" to allow a team from India to investigate the attacks, while New Delhi said a Pakistani delegation would travel to India to probe the attacks. The two sides also agreed to establish a hotline to share real-time information on terrorist threats.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their 1947 independence from Britain.

So-called "cricket diplomacy" has been used as a platform to ease India-Pakistan tension in the past. In 1987 and 2005, Pakistani leaders traveled to India to watch cricket matches.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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