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Updated: March 26, 2011 02:48 IST

Manmohan invites Zardari, Gilani for Mohali match

Sandeep Dikshit
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A file photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
A file photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

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.

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It is the right time to start the cricket diplomacy once again . My best wishes are with team India.

from:  Syed Mazahir Kazmi
Posted on: Mar 27, 2011 at 08:53 IST

An attempt by the government to divert the public attention from the scams.

from:  Rajesh
Posted on: Mar 27, 2011 at 05:25 IST

It was nice gesture of Our Prime Minister to invite our neighbours to watch the match, which is not far from Pak border.It has increased our goodwill in world and even extremist of Pakistan may be praising in their heart.Singh Sahib distribute some kind of medals or gifts to both teams equally winners or loser on this occasion.I hope every thing goes well and both teams goes to their home safely.God bless our team and India.

from:  GT
Posted on: Mar 27, 2011 at 00:40 IST

The invitation by our beleaguered PM to his Pakistani counterpart doesn't strike the right cords. Firstly its not a Indo-Pak series but a World Cup with huge expectations from home crowd of each team. Any team losing the match would be a great disappointment to fans. Further politicizing a game will heighten the stakes from each side, public surely if not players. Let a game of cricket remain cricket and utilize the other formal channels of diplomacy in bringing the perpetrators of 26/11 to book (which all Indians hope against hope) and building trust.

from:  Abhilasha Bisht
Posted on: Mar 26, 2011 at 23:21 IST

I am very happy after listen that Mr. Manmohan Singh has invited to Pakistani PM and President for watch cricket in mohali on 30 march 2011.

from:  meghraj singh
Posted on: Mar 26, 2011 at 12:38 IST

Well a positive step but let's not expect things to change abruptly with one meeting. Even though hands meet, hearts rarely do. Unthinkable will be a scenario, if India looses to Pak in semi's and goes on to play in Mumbai! Millions of Indians would hate to even think about it leave alone Mumbaikars who bore the brunt of 28/11. Mr. PM pls don't make your maniac pursuit of peace mis-aligned with popular public perception. Lets keep a game as a game only.

from:  Sanjay
Posted on: Mar 26, 2011 at 10:00 IST

It is just another game, but look at the game of Allah Subhana Tallah; the team that was never allowed in India for years, and their players were banned in IPL, have to come to India with grace and dignity.

from:  Dr Shahhid
Posted on: Mar 26, 2011 at 08:25 IST

I think this is completely uncalled for. This will unnecessarily add political pressure on the cricketers to perform. Did they wait all the while for this match to kickstart their talks? Seriously lame, in my opinion.

from:  Mukundhan
Posted on: Mar 26, 2011 at 01:34 IST

This goodwill gesture will go a long way in improving the bilateral relationship between the two countries. It is immaterial whether they accept the invitation or not, India has made a point that Sportsman spirit is something that can be emulated in politics as well.

from:  Fahim Favas C
Posted on: Mar 26, 2011 at 00:42 IST

If you are inviting the leader of the neighbouring country then invite the leader with real clout, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani and his sidekick, Gen. Shuja Pasha. You don't invite the real dictator's shoeshine boys to attend with Indian leaders. If it is against protocol then invite the Pakistani civilian leaders and Indian military chiefs too.

from:  Hyder Ali
Posted on: Mar 26, 2011 at 00:37 IST
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