The prime ministers of India and Pakistan are mixing diplomacy with sports Wednesday, as teams from the cricket-crazy nations face off in a World Cup semifinal match in the northern Indian city of Mohali.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, greeted the teams on the field before the match, which they are watching together in a private box.
The match follows two days of peace talks between ministers of the two nuclear-armed nations.
Officials estimate that more than a billion people will follow the epic battle between the two cricket teams. The winner will play Sri Lanka in the final in Mumbai Saturday.
Security is tight in Mohali and surrounding areas in Punjab state, with local authorities saying they were leaving nothing to chance.
Tickets for the semifinal match have been sold out for days and most businesses and offices in both countries are expected to be closed.
Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and Pakistan’s Interior Secretary Chaudhary Qamar Zaman met in New Delhi this week. It was the first formal dialogue since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, during which Pakistan-based militants killed 166 people.
In a joint statement Tuesday, Islamabad agreed “in principle” to allow a team from India to investigate the attacks, while New Delhi said a Pakistani delegation would travel to India to probe the attacks. The two sides also agreed to establish a hotline to share real-time information on terrorist threats.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their 1947 independence from Britain.
So-called “cricket diplomacy” has been used as a platform to ease India-Pakistan tension in the past. In 1987 and 2005, Pakistani leaders traveled to India to watch cricket matches.