In the hope that sport can transcend the political divide, many in the cricketing world are welcoming the proposed series of matches between India and Pakistan, scheduled for later this year.
Although differences remain, relations between long-time adversaries India and Pakistan have been steadily warming in recent months. This week, the two nations took another step towards reconciliation, announcing plans for Pakistani cricketers to play matches in India starting this winter.
"It was decided to resume cricketing ties with Pakistan by inviting their cricket team for a short series from December 2012 to January 2013. The modalities will be worked out shortly," the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said Monday (July 16th) after a meeting in New Delhi.
India suspended direct cricket ties with its neighbour following the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, in which at least 164 people died. Delhi has consistently accused elements of the Pakistani state of colluding in the terror spree, carried out by operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba extremist network.
Claims of Pakistani involvement were brought to the forefront again in recent weeks following the June arrest of Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari, also known as Abu Hamza and Abu Jindal, who is suspected of helping to co-ordinate the Mumbai attacks. Indian authorities say information he has provided under questioning points to Pakistani involvement, although officials there deny any link to terror.
Disagreements over the issue, however, have not stood in the way of a burgeoning rapprochement, signalled by enhanced trade ties, ongoing talks at the foreign ministerial level, and now the resumption of cricket ties.
"We propose to hold three one-day internationals in Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi and two 20-20 games at Ahmedabad and Bangalore," BCCI official Rajiv Shukhla, who is also a federal Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, told Khabar South Asia.
Though the longstanding freeze may have made for potent political symbolism, it has been bad news for the sports industry, said Rohit Sanwal, a cricket commentator with the popular Hindi channel Sahara Live.
"BCCI earns records fees for selling Indo-Pak broadcasting rights. So whenever politics intervenes to suspend these encounters, big business suffers."
The BCCI in April announced a $750 million deal with Rupert Murdoch-owned Star Group for exclusive TV rights for six years. "There is a clause in the agreement covering India-Pakistan games," Sanwal said. "So this continued suspension was hurting commercial interests."
Even during the suspension, Indian and Pakistani cricketers have had the chance to face each other on the field. During the 2011 World Cup semifinals, the Pakistani team travelled to India for a match played before a capacity crowd of 65,000 in Mohali, near Chandigarh. India won and went on to lift the cup.
News that matches will be resumed, however, is not sitting well with many in Mumbai, where feelings remain bitter four years after the atrocities dubbed "26/11". The BCCI authorities intentionally didn't propose a match in Mumbai, even though it is considered India's cricket capital.
Hindu nationalist parties, meanwhile, are sharply critical.
"We are surprised that BCCI could take this step without getting formal clearance from the government," Ramdas Kadam, spokesperson of the right-wing Shiv Sena, which presently controls Mumbai (City) Corporation and is the state of Maharashtra's leading opposition party.
"The government of Pakistan has not agreed to any of the terms set by New Delhi after the terrorist attack. So why is India rolling out the carpet?" he told Khabar.
The state unit of the ruling Congress party has also joined the chorus, saying the sentiments of Maharashtra people must be taken into account. Others, though, say they would like to see sports transcend the political divide.
Former Indian captain Bishen Singh Bedi, who himself led a resumption series in 1978 after 16 years of frozen cricketing ties, told CNN-IBN that the news is a positive development.
"I welcome this decision as a sportsman. To cricket fans in the sub-continent there's nothing more exciting than an Indian-Pakistan match," he said.