The high-profile luncheon meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday broke certain conventions when it came to dissemination of news to the people. As the meeting was kept out of bounds to the media, people glued to the micro-blogging site Twitter as the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) kept the nation informed of the deliberations over the sumptuous meal.
Apart from the PMO, which started tweeting around noon by posting a picture of the neatly laid out dinner table for the power lunch, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and visiting head of the ruling Pakistan People Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who attended the lunch, shared some interesting insights of the closed-door meeting. Interestingly, TV news channels were forced to rely on “breaking news” on the PMO's Twitter account, being followed by over 82,000 people.
While the PMO's tweets were mainly sourced from the official statement issued post-lunch, Ms. Swaraj and the PPP chief gave some impromptu comments. For instance, Ms. Swaraj tweeted: “Towards the end of lunch, Prime Minister told President Zardari that since he was going to Ajmer sharief, he should pray before Khwaja sahib for peace in both our countries.” “President Zardari promised to do that,” Ms. Swaraj, who has over 2.30-lakh followers on Twitter, wrote.
Similarly, Bilawal announced his first-ever visit to India by tweeting “AOA (Allah O Akbar) India Peace be with you.” “Prez (Zardari) n I enjoyed Lunch with #Rahul#Gandhi# and #PMSingh#. lovely meal. much to learn from each other,” he wrote, besides describing his visit to the dargah at Ajmer as “spiritual” and “peaceful.” The PPP chief is being followed by over 14,000 people on Twitter.
The 50-minute luncheon meeting saw several important leaders from India and Pakistan enjoying an elaborate meal — four-course Indian delicacies that included a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian ‘kebabs' like ‘jaitooni murg seekh', ‘gosht barra' and ‘subz shammi' kebabs, mini masala dosa, ‘murg kofta makhni' (chicken), ‘sikandari khusk raan' (lamb), and ‘phirni' and ‘sandesh' for dessert.
Informed sources said while Rahul Gandhi was seated next to Bilawal, Home Minister P. Chidambaram was seen having intense discussion with his Pakistan counterpart Rehman Malik. They even exchanged some notes. Others present included Defence Minister A.K. Antony, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai. However, UPA Chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi could not attend the lunch and had sent a letter of regret, the sources said.