WASHINGTON: The United States has expressed its support for Pakistan-India cricket diplomacy and desires that in addition to progress on trade relations, the two South Asian nations now also move forward on trust building, counter-terrorism cooperation and tackling political issues.
According to the State Department, Americans generally don’t know much about cricket but they like it, when Pakistan and India play their popular sport. “We’re for cricket. We don’t understand it, but we like it,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said amid laughter during the daily briefing.
She was commenting on Pakistan and India, the two Asian powerhouses, resuming their cricketing ties later this year, in a diplomatic move that is part of broader efforts to normalize bilateral relations.
Cricket is the most popular sport in both Pakistan and India, and contests between the countries are played in a spirit of intense competition and rivalry. In recent months, both countries have shown willingness to improve their bilateral ties in trade and some other areas. But, Islamabad and New Delhi are still to make progress on addressing some longstanding contentious security and political issues including Kashmir dispute.
In the larger context of Pakistani-Indian relations, the State Department spokesperson said, Washington shares the “interest of people in India, people in Pakistan – - – in seeing these two countries continuing to improve their relationship.”
“We have been supportive in all of our diplomatic encounters at every level with the Indian side, with the Pakistani side in some of the progress that they’ve made,” Nuland noted.
She was appreciative that Islamabad and New Delhi have made “considerable progress” on the economic side. “We are encouraging them to do better on issues like sharing counter-terrorism information, dealing with threats to both countries, moving forward to work on trust (building) and political issues, so we will continue (to) support dialogue between them at every level, but it’s obviously up to Indians and Pakistanis to continue to work on this.”
Regarding dealing with the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai bombings – that came as a setback for a five-year old South Asian peace process – and bringing people to justice, the spokesperson said, that issue “comes up in all of our discussions with Indians and with Pakistanis.”
“And we’ll continue to advocate for full justice being served, not least because Americans lost their lives as well,” she added.