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Parliamentary panel bats for cricket diplomacy to engage with Imran

Parliamentary panel bats for cricket diplomacy to engage with Imran
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New Delhi: Taking a cue from 'ping-pong' diplomacy, a Parliamentary panel on External Affairs suggested cricket diplomacy to engage with Pakistan. Instead of an official interlocutor, the Standing Committee on External Affairs has expressed the opinion that top-level Indian cricketers should be roped in to talk to cricketer-turned Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale who was present in the standing committee meeting assured that he would convey their view to the highest echelons in Government and revert soon.

In international diplomatic history, 'ping-pong' diplomacy refers to the exchange of table-tennis players (ping-pong) between the United States and the People's Republic of China in the early 1970's. The event marked a turning point in Sino-American relations that paved the way to a visit to Beijing by President Richard Nixon for the first time.

MPs across political lines felt that India could not overlook an opportunity following the election of army-backed Imran Khan. MPs belonging to the ruling BJP party did not express any opinion. MPs present in the meeting said that BJP MPs were neither for or against the proposal.

When Members of the standing committee headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor sought the foreign secretary's view, he replied that only political leadership could decide on this matter. India is of the opinion that unless Pakistan takes some concrete steps against the terror camps within dialogue can't begin.

MPs were also of the view that the world was changing very fast. One MP said, "When US President Donald Trump can meet North Korea

President and two Koreas can come together why can't India-Pakistan engage with each other." In this context, ping-pong diplomacy came up, and MPs suggested retired cricket players like Sachin Tendulkar could be engaged as soft interlocutor.

Incidentally, the first meeting of the Standing Committee of the External Affairs before the Winter Session was called last Friday to discuss Indo-Pak Relations given the new regime in Pakistan.

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