ISLAMABAD, March 13: Cricketing ties between India and Pakistan are part of the confidence building measures (CBMs) initiated by the two countries to defuse tensions and pave the way for dialogue on a level playing field for the resolution of all outstanding issues, Pakistan's foreign office said here on Saturday.

"These matches are a good backdrop for the dialogue process that we have started as they highlight an area of convergence rather than divergence," foreign office spokesman Masood Khan told Dawn.

In response to a question if the visit of the Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was on the cards to witness the Lahore cricket match, the spokesman said: "There was no such proposal under consideration by either government." However, the spokesman said if India expressed a desire for the visit of the Indian prime minister, Pakistan would welcome such a move.

Sources said President Gen Pervez Musharraf might witness one of the cricket matches between India and Pakistan for which the authorities were taking into view the security considerations at different venues including Rawalpindi.

Cricket was used as a tool of backdoor diplomacy by Gen Zia-ul-Haq at the height of tensions with India during mid 1980s.

The world community is watching with renewed zeal the diplomatic initiatives between India and Pakistan in which cricket has once again become a source of people-to-people contact and a tool of diplomacy for sending out messages of peace across the border.

Pakistan's foreign office spokesman said cricket is a popular game in India and Pakistan, but because of the efforts aimed at bringing peace in South Asia, people from all over the world were watching these matches.

"These matches are important. They are part of the confidence building measures that Pakistan and India have announced," he said.

"All CBMs, including sporting ties, are linked to the dialogue process and the dialogue process is linked to the resolution of all outstanding issues, especially Kashmir," he said. The foreign office spokesman said let these matches become a metaphor for dialogue.

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