India and Pakistan at diplomatic crease

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The Independent Online

India's cricketers arrived in Pakistan amid heavy security yesterday for their first full tour of the country in more than 14 years - the latest sign of thawing relations between the two countries.

India's cricketers arrived in Pakistan amid heavy security yesterday for their first full tour of the country in more than 14 years - the latest sign of thawing relations between the two countries.

Leaders from both sides hope the tour will help maintain momentum towards a lasting peace after the nuclear-armed neighbours came to the brink of a fourth war in 2002 over the disputed Kashmir region.

Ratnakar Shetty, India's team manager, said: "Cricket will obviously create a better atmosphere between the countries. The series is happening because the governments of both countries wanted it."

Hundreds of police and paramilitary troops surrounded Allama Iqbal airport in the eastern city of Lahore where the Indian team arrived. The Pakistani authorities have promised tight security after several international cricket visits were cancelled or curtailed over the last two years because of violence linked to Islamic militants. Syed Masood Shah, chief of police in the province of Punjab, where Lahore is located, said this week that 3,500 police officers would be deployed at Rawalpindi stadium for the second one-day match on Tuesday.

India will play a warm-up match in Lahore, close to the Indian border, on Thursday before travelling to the port city of Karachi for the first of five one-day internationals on Saturday. The tour ends on 17 April.

Saurav Ganguly, the Indian captain, sought to play down the tour's political implications yesterday. He told reporters: "I don't agree with the goodwill issue. It's a cricket match and we are here to win."

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