ISLAMABAD - Just ahead of the cricket World Cup clash, Pakistan and India on Friday had a top level contact that can pave the way for formal resumption of much-needed peace talks’ process between the two neighbours.

Indian Prime Minister Nerendera Modi made a telephone call to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to discuss regional peace, revival of talks and the upcoming cricket world cup match between the two neighbours, just a day after US President Barack Obama had a telephonic conversation with Nawaz Sharif.

“Nerendera Modi has hinted to resume negotiations with Pakistan”, said a senior official at the Prime Minister’s office here. “They discussed bilateral cooperation and peace in the region and the cricket world cup. The Indian premier also wished good luck to Pakistan team”, said the official.

A press release issued from the PM House said that after greetings and pleasantries Prime Minister Modi informed PM Nawaz that India’s new foreign secretary will soon visit all Saarc countries and would also like to visit Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif, recalling his meeting with Indian prime minister on May 24, 2014, welcomed the visit of Indian foreign secretary to Pakistan to discuss all issues of common interest.

“The conversation between the two leaders lasted for 10 minutes,” the PM House official said. Indian prime minister referred to the old days of cricket when PM Sharif appeared to play warm-up match in 1987. “Moreover, issues related to Line of Control (LoC) violations and table talks were also discussed”, the official added.

Both the countries are cricket loving nations and there is also a history of cricket-diplomacy between two countries. Former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in 2011 had also sat beside his then counterpart Manmohan Singh and watched World Cup semi-final.

The first formal direct contact between the two prime ministers since their brief interaction at the sidelines of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Conference came on a day when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded his two-day visit to Pakistan.

Yi not only signed some key agreements of economic and security cooperation with Pakistan but also announced that Chinese president would soon visit Islamabad to give impetus to major projects of bilateral cooperation. With respect to the region the most important thing was the offer from China to mediate between Afghan government and Taliban for reconciliation in the war-torn country.

The US president in his telephonic conversation on Thursday had informed Nawaz Sharif about his recent visit to India and inquired about the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb. Both the leaders also discussed the security situation in the region, especially in Afghanistan.

Agencies add: Modi said “cricket connects people in our region and promotes goodwill” after speaking with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other South Asian leaders whose country’s teams are playing in the World Cup.

“Spoke to President Ashraf Ghani, PM Sheikh Hasina, PM Nawaz Sharif & President Sirisena. Conveyed my best wishes for the Cricket World Cup,” Modi also tweeted.

“Hope players from Saarc region play with passion and bring laurels to the region,” he said, referring to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Millions of India and Pakistan fans are expected to watch Sunday’s clash on television, while thousands of others are set to flock to the Adelaide Oval in Australia.

Modi’s cricket diplomacy comes after relations soured last year between the two nuclear-armed neighbours over increased firing along their borders and cancelled peace talks between their officials.

Modi’s government is seen taking a more assertive stance towards its neighbour since coming to power last May. Modi and Sharif failed to hold a bilateral meeting at a Saarc summit in November.

India’s new foreign secretary S. Jaishankar will soon visit his South Asian neighbours, Modi also tweeted, although he did not mention Pakistan specifically.

India abruptly cancelled peace talks last year between their foreign secretaries, angered that Pakistan consulted Kashmiri separatist leaders before the dialogue began.

Pakistan and India, who have fought two of their three wars over disputed Muslim-majority Kashmir, have traded blame for an upsurge in firing and shelling which started in October last year.

Exchanges of firing across their de facto border and undisputed border further south have killed more than two dozen civilians and forced thousands to flee their homes on both sides.

S. Jaishankar will travel to Islamabad where “India will push its agenda” during bilateral meetings with officials, foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said at a briefing.

Akbaruddin did not say whether the visit would likely result in peace talks resuming between the foreign secretaries of the nuclear-armed neighbours — talks which India abruptly cancelled last year.

US Secretary of State John Kerry last month appealed to both nations to resume the talks, saying Washington was “deeply concerned” about a surge in violence on the border in Kashmir.

US welcomes move to

resume dialogue

Special correspondent adds from Washington: The United States would welcome the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan, a State Department Spokesperson said Friday, while underlining that the relationship between the two countries was critical to advancing peace and security in South Asia. “We believe India and Pakistan stand to benefit from practical cooperation and are encouraged that they may resume dialogue aimed at reducing tensions,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.