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Game for cross-border dalliances
- Pak marriage ads and search for cricket series sponsor in Indian papers

New Delhi, May 2: Love knows no boundaries, even when it is arranged.

Possibly even cricket sponsorships don't, if they can be arranged.

As diplomats try to give meaning to the 'soft border' agreed by Manmohan Singh and Pervez Musharraf, a number of families from Pakistan have started sending feelers to India for possible marriage alliances for their sons and daughters and brothers and sisters.

Marriages across the border have been going on for years, but this time the conduit is the matrimonial column in Indian newspapers and not friends and relatives.

'Man, 30, Siddiqui, UP, looking for good-looking government schoolteacher bride. Contact c/ Jang box...., Karachi, Pakistan,' reads one.

Another says: 'Daughter, 35, Punjabi, B.A., religious, good-looking. Looking for groom....'

In a third, a lecturer has put an advertisement for her own marriage. 'Urdu speaking, Sunni, expert in household jobs, tall, looking for highly-educated and working groom up to 35 years of age.'

Cross-border overtures are not limited to marriage alliances alone but also to finding Indian sponsors for cricket matches in Pakistan.

Says an ad in an Indian newspaper: 'The Pakistani Cricket Board (PCB) invites bids from interested parties to become the title sponsor for the Pakistan-England cricket series comprising three Test matches and five one-day internationals scheduled to be played in November-December 2005.'

Sources pointed out that last year during the cricket series between the two countries in Pakistan, a number of leading Indian companies had become sponsors after the PCB took out huge ads in newspapers in India for the first time.

Samsung was the main sponsor and there were others. The PCB made a neat pile of money out of that series because India-based companies, arms of multinationals and others threw their financial might behind it.

Having learnt from that experience, the board is experimenting with a series against a third country. And not for nothing either.

Three of the International Cricket Council's global partners are Indian subsidiaries of multinationals ' Pepsi, LG and Hutch ' and the fourth, Hero Honda, is Indian.

Money for cricket is here because India is the largest market for the game. The PCB's attempt will be a test if companies working out of India have an appetite for a series where the Sachin Tendulkars are not playing.

The PCB is hoping to tickle their hunger after Inzamam-ul Haq's boys' fightback in the recent series in India. Improving political relations is unlikely to influence a commercial decision.

Ads for alliances, however, are a direct result of bonhomie. 'With more cross-border marriages and more investments by Indian companies in Pakistan, we may soon look at a situation where the peace process really becomes irreversible,' said a senior Indian official.

The more cautious warn that marriages might help in binding, but they also expose families to threats from militants if relations between the two countries move in the opposite direction.

'It remains to be seen how many Indian families respond to such advertisements. And even if they do, whether such alliances can make any meaningful contribution towards cementing people-to-people relations ,' said a member of a divided family.

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