August 19, 2018 2:14:32 am
A CRICKET bat presented to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan by Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad Ajay Bisaria earlier this month was signed by the Indian cricket team during its South Africa tour. Khan took oath as the 22nd prime minister of Pakistan on Saturday.
Sources told The Indian Express that once the election schedule in Pakistan, including the formation of a caretaker government, was announced in May the Indian High Commissioner was keen to open lines of communication with all major political parties there. As a part of the preparation for these meetings, Bisaria had requested his friend Rahul Johri, the CEO of Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), for three bats autographed by the Indian cricket team.
Johri had send Bisaria the bats signed by the Indian team during its South Africa tour — from end-December last year to late February this year.
As Khan was busy with the election campaign, Khan and Bisaria met at the Iftaar party where the Indian High Commissioner was seated next to the former Pakistan cricket captain.
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Bisaria, sources said, had asked Khan for a meeting and informed him about the cricket bat. Khan readily agreed for the meeting, but the two sides could meet only on August 10. Khan’s PTI had already won the elections by then.
India’s diplomatic outreach to Pakistan’s government (then in waiting) by presenting a cricket bat autographed by the Indian team had attracted a lot of global attention as a novel diplomatic gesture.
According to sources, a large part of the discussion between Khan and Bisaria during the 30-minute meeting was also focussed around cricket. Other matters, including Kashmir and cross-border terrorism, were also raised.
The two other bats, sources said, are still with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
They are also likely to be presented to Pakistani dignitaries, but Indian officials are tight-lipped about whom they would present the souvenir.
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