Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semifinal to be played at Mohali in Punjab on March 30.
In virtually identical letters to Mr. Zardari and Mr. Gilani, Dr. Singh said he planned to watch the semifinal. “There is huge excitement over the match, and we are all looking forward to a great game of cricket that will be a victory for sport. It gives me great pleasure to invite you to visit Mohali and join me and the millions of fans from our two countries to watch the match,” he wrote.
Government sources pointed out that more than the invitation being a goodwill gesture to leaders from a neighbouring country, it should be read with the decisions taken during the talks in Thimphu in February between Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir.
Indeed, Ms. Rao telephoned Mr. Bashir last week to prepare the ground for a productive — and rancour-free — meeting between the two countries' Home Secretaries here on Monday.
Official sources told The Hindu that the Foreign Secretaries agreed not to raise public expectations or play to their respective national galleries but to allow the confidence-building process to develop.
Monday's talks in North Block will mark the resumption of the high-level discussions on all subjects more than two years after the dialogue was suspended following the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.
“This is an expression of political will, the desire to intensify the process of dialogue with Pakistan. We have held it in both sides in abeyance for far too long. I don't think it has created returns for either of us,” said a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs.
As highly placed sources had told The Hindu after the Thimphu talks, both officials had resolved not to disclose decisions taken at their interaction on the sidelines of a SAARC Ministerial meet. They had also refrained from attacking each other, and official briefings at Thimphu saw officials from both sides actually attempting to sidestep loaded questions and exercise restraint when confronted by provocative statements by leaders from either country.
During the latest conversation, the Foreign Secretaries agreed to avoid rhetoric, “put on hold” exaggerated expectations and avoid negative comments.
The subjects the talks will cover are counter-terrorism (progress in the Mumbai attack case trial included), humanitarian issues, peace and security, including confidence-building measures, Jammu and Kashmir, promotion of friendly exchanges, Siachen, economic issues and the Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project. The issue of Sir Creek will be discussed at the level of Additional Secretaries or Surveyors-General.