Manmohan invites Zardari, Gilani for cricket — and peace (Night Intro)March 26th, 2011 - 12:33 am ICT by IANS
New Delhi, March 25 (IANS) In a replay of cricket diplomacy that could help resume their stalled peace process, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday invited Pakistani leaders Asif Ali Zardari and Yusuf Raza Gilani to see the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final at Mohali March 30 — the first cricket clash between them after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.
India is also offering 5,000 visas to Pakistani fans to watch the match at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium in Mohali.
In a statement, Zardari welcomed the invite, but noted that the final decision will be taken after the Pakistani prime minister returns from his official visit to Uzbekistan Sunday.
“It gives me great pleasure to invite you to visit Mohali (in Punjab) and join me and millions of fans from our two countries to watch the match,” Manmohan Singh wrote in identical letters to both Pakistani leaders, delivered through the Pakistan High Commission.
Manmohan Singh said he and his wife Gursharan Kaur will also be at the match venue.
“I propose to be at Mohali to watch the World Cup semi-final match between India and Pakistan… 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,” the letter said.
Billed as the game of the 2011 World Cup, bitter rivals and cricket-mad nations India and Pakistan will fight March 30 for a place in the final. Both countries have not played each other since the Mumbai terror attack of 2008.
The prime minister has invited Gilani’s wife too.
“It gives me great pleasure to invite you and your gracious wife to visit Mohali and join me, my wife and the millions of fans from our two countries to watch the match,” the letter to the Pakistani prime minister says.
Thousands of Pakistani cricket fans are expected to watch the match with India planning to give 5,000 visas for the match.
India and Pakistan have not played cricket against each other since 10 Pakistani terrorists sneaked into Mumbai in November 2008 and slaughtered 166 people — almost triggering a war between the two countries.
Pakistan’s envoy to Britain, Wajid Shamshul Hasan, quickly applauded the Indian invitation.
“It is a great goodwill gesture,” Hasan told CNN-IBN television channel. “It (the semi-final) is not just a cricket match. It is a great occasion.”
Manmohan Singh’s invitation is a repeat of similar cricket diplomacy on two earlier occasions. But Zardari and Gilani would be the first civilian leaders of Pakistan to get such invites.
In 1987, Gen. Zia ul-Haq visited Jaipur at Rajiv Gandhi’s invitation. Almost two decades later, in 2005, then president Pervez Musharraf flew to New Delhi on Manmohan Singh’s invitation.
Both those visits helped ease tensions in India-Pakistan relations.
The announcement of Manmohan Singh’s invitation came soon after the Pakistani team led by Shahid Afridi arrived in Chandigarh Friday.
Pakistani players including Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Younis Khan, Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhtar reached the hotel Taj with scores of police and other security personnel providing them cover.
Security personnel lined both sides of the stretch between the Chandigarh airport and the hotel.
“We have made foolproof security cover both inside and outside the hotel where the Pakistan team is staying. We have issued do’s and don’ts to the players and officials. We have told them to inform us if they want to go out,” Chandigarh Senior Superintendent of Police H.S. Doon said.
Just before the cricket diplomacy became public knowledge, Pakistan’s high commissioner to India, Shahid Malik, said an India-Pakistan cricket match was good for both countries.
A cricket fan himself, Malik said the two countries also needed to move ahead in other areas. He urged New Delhi to issue the maximum visas to Pakistanis eager to see the Mohali semi-final.
The diplomat spoke glowingly of the Pakistani team, saying it had shown it was a winning squad.
“In fielding, batting, bowling, in every field (they are outstanding),” he said. “It (semi-final) is a challenge. Let us see what happens on March 30.”
- Manmohan invites Zardari, Gilani for cricket -- and peace (Intro Roundup) - Mar 25, 2011
- Manmohan, Zardari, Gilani to watch cricket -- for peace (Roundup) - Mar 25, 2011
- Gilani says 'yes' to Manmohan's cricket diplomacy (Second Lead) - Mar 27, 2011
- Manmohan invites Zardari, Gilani for India-Pakistan match (Lead) - Mar 25, 2011
- Previous India-Pakistan encounters in cricket-diplomacy - Mar 26, 2011
- Manmohan Singh to watch Mohali match, invites Pak President, PM to join - Mar 25, 2011
- India-Pakistan talks between overs could help ease tensions: Daily - Mar 27, 2011
- Indian PM invites Zardari, Gilani for India-Pakistan match (Second Intro Roundup) - Mar 26, 2011
- PM invites Zardari, Gilani for India-Pakistan match - Mar 25, 2011
- Zardari, Gilani to visit India -- for cricket - Mar 25, 2011
- Zardari trip good but should fetch results: Analysts - Apr 06, 2012
- Gilani to discuss all mutual interest issues during India visit: Foreign Office - Mar 30, 2011
- Manmohan invitation to Gilani beyond symbolism: Expert - Mar 28, 2011
- Zardari's presence will not make any difference: Imran - Mar 26, 2011
- Gilani to stay at Chandigarh hotel hosting both teams (Lead) - Mar 28, 2011
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