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In sign of goodwill, India cheers wildly for Pakistan at Commonwealth Games

India's spontaneous cheers for Pakistan players at the Commonwealth Games has some wondering if the two countries' relationship is entering a less testy phase.

By Aarti BetigeriContributor / October 6, 2010

Indian security personnel watch the Commonwealth Games field hockey match between Pakistan and Scotland in the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi, India, Oct. 5.

Eranga Jayawardena/AP


New Delhi

When teams entered the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony Sunday in New Delhi, the biggest cheer of the night – after India – was reserved for Pakistan.

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As sustained applause rang out across the stadium, with much of the 50,000-strong audience on their feet, at least a few spectators on both sides of the border wondered: Could this be a sign that it's time to end the conflict that has plagued relations since the birth of both countries, for once and for all?

"It was a spontaneous cheer that no one expected, and shows that a bond exists," says Suhasini Haidar, anchor and deputy foreign editor with India's CNN subsidiary, CNN-IBN.

IN PICTURES: Commonwealth Games 2010

Doubling up on diplomacy

Many stumbling blocks remain in their volatile bilateral relationship, not least of all the recent admission by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that Pakistani authorities trained militants to fight in India in the disputed Kashmir region. Still, athletes and sports spectators alike have recently spoken of goodwill during the Commonwealth Games highlighting a possible reason to step toward a new, improved relationship.

"Whenever I have come here, people have showered me with love and support. Playing here is like playing at home for me," Pakistani tennis player Aqeel Khan told a local newsagency on Monday.

His teammate Aisam ul-Haq Qureshi is perhaps Pakistan’s strongest medal hope, after reaching the final of the US Open tennis men's doubles this year. In an indication of just how positive cross-border ties can yield results, Mr. Qureshi's partner at the September tournament in New York was India's Rohan Bopanna.

"People seem to think that bad relations at a government level means bad relations across the board," says Ms. Haidar, the news anchor. "But as someone who travels often to Pakistan and lives here, it's not something I see translating on the ground. In fact it's quite the opposite."

Tensions run deep