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India's Top Tennis Player to Marry Pakistan's Top Cricketer

In this combination of two file photos, Indian tennis player Sania Mirza at a press conference in Hyderabad, India, Feb. 4, 2008, left, and Pakistani cricket captain Shoaib Malik at a press conference in Karachi, Pakistan on Jan. 19, 2009, are shown. Mali

The cross-border story of Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik is grabbing the headlines in India and Pakistan, South Asia's nuclear arch-rivals.

News about India and Pakistan is usually dominated by their many disputes on contentious issues ranging from Kashmir to terrorism. But this time a different kind of cross-border story is grabbing the headlines - two sports stars from India and Pakistan have decided to get married.

"We have news now and it is confirmed as well that Sania Mirza is going to be getting married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik," announced a television anchor.

Both young and old in India and Pakistan tuned in as domestic TV channels announced the cross-border match between India's top woman tennis player Sania Mirza, and former Pakistani cricket captain, Shoaib Malik.

Some news headlines called it the "India-Pakistan love story". Others called it "India Pakistan Love Match," some termed it "Match fixing."

The high profile, unprecedented alliance between sports stars of the South Asian countries, whose rivalry has led to three wars, is getting huge attention.

Sania Mirza, 23, and 28-year-old Shoaib Malik, 28, are not only well known sports personalities, they are also popular youth icons.

Sania Mirza's father has said the couple will be based in Dubai, and both will continue to play for their countries in their respective sports. Sania Mirza says she hopes to represent India in two upcoming sporting events - the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, after recovering from a wrist injury.

People in India, more used to hearing controversies of another kind with neighbor Pakistan, said they were happy at the announcement, and hoped it would help bridge the divide between the two countries.

"Nice to hear there is some romance between the two countries rather than fighting terrorists all the time," said one person.

"In the present day world it is OK, you want to get together, marry each other, it is fine," said another.

The wedding is scheduled to take place next month. Wedding celebrations are expected to be held in both countries - in the Indian city of Hyderabad, where Sania Mirza lives and in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

Both players have been involved in earlier controversies. Sania Mirza broke off her engagement to a childhood friend in January. Shoaib Malik was accused by another Indian woman of marrying her over the telephone. The cricketer denied it, but admitted to being engaged.

Relations between India and Pakistan remain tense, but a peace process which began in 2004 has yielded dividends in terms of closer people to people contacts between the two countries.