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Pakistani PM Arrives in New Delhi for Cricket Diplomacy

Bollywood actress Rani Mukherjee (l) greets Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, second right, as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, right, looks on
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has arrived in the Indian capital New Delhi on a three-day visit. He is expected to watch a cricket match between the national teams of Pakistan and India and hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the disputed region of Kashmir, in the latest round of so-called cricket diplomacy between the two South Asian rivals.

President Musharraf's first stop in India was a Sufi shrine in the city of Ajmer, where he prayed and then told those gathered that he was hopeful about the future of India-Pakistan relations.

He says, he prayed for peace between the two nations and came to India so that relations between India and Pakistan could improve and the differences between them be resolved.

It is Mr. Musharraf's first visit to India since he attended a summit in the city of Agra in 2001, when the two nations failed to reach any agreement over Kashmir - the border region that each claims as its own, and which has lead to two wars between the nuclear rivals.

It appears that neither side wants a repeat of the failed summit.

Hours before Mr. Musharraf's arrival, India said it had proposed to Pakistan a handful of new confidence building measures intended to ease hostilities between them.

The proposals are to be discussed by Mr. Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday. Officials say they include opening more bus links across the Line of Control, or LOC, the de-facto border that divides Kashmir between the two nations. The proposals also include the easing of restrictions on people who want to attend religious and cultural events on opposite sides of the LOC.

Earlier this month, India and Pakistan launched an historic bus link to bring passengers across the LOC for the first time since 1947. That is when the two countries were granted independence from Britain, and almost immediately began their conflict over Kashmir.

Before meeting Prime Minister Singh, Mr. Musharraf is expected to briefly watch play in the last in a month-long series of cricket matches between India and Pakistan's national teams.

The resumption of cricket matches between is a sign of the warming relations between the South Asian rivals. In the past, matches have not taken place because of political tensions.

Now analysts say, cricket diplomacy has returned. Vijay Sakuja is an analyst with the independent Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

"It's also an opportunity while the cricket is being played and both sides appear to take this as kind of a point in a dialogue process in which they would like to put out a front to say that both sides are keen and that the peace process is moving forward," said Vijay Sakuja.

During his visit, President Musharraf is also expected to meet with members of a political organization representing several moderate Kashmiri separatist groups.

Islamic militants in the region have fought an insurgency against Indian troops in the two-thirds of Kashmir under New Delhi's control since 1989. The separatists want Kashmir to become independent, or to merge with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.