PM invites Zardari, Gilani to watch Indo-Pak match in Mohali

first_imgPrime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani (left) and President Asif Ali Zardari to watch the World Cup semi-final at Mohali.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to invite the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan to watch the India vs Pakistan World Cup match at Mohali with him marks yet another dogged attempt by him to push the India-Pakistan peace agenda.Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) confirmed that Singh wrote identical letters to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani.The text of the letters to the Pakistani leaders says: “I propose to be at Mohali to watch the World Cup semi-final match between India and Pakistan to be held on 30th March.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 countries to watch the match.” Cricket has had a chequered role in the diplomatic history of the two countries, and has been used to facilitate dialogue and bring about bonhomie. But ever since the Mumbai attack of November 2008, India-Pakistan relations have been in a trough, despite Singh’s valiant attempts to revive them. This cast a shadow even on cricket ties. The two sides have had just two cricketing encounters since 26/ 11, both in ICC-sanctioned events. And India has not welcomed any Pakistani player in the IPL tournament for two years.advertisementSince it was not certain till Thursday night that there would be an India-Pakistan World Cup encounter at Mohali – that was known only after India beat Australia – the invitation to the Pakistani leaders has quite clearly not been thought through. Sources said that the invitation caught the ministry of external affairs unawares, emphasising the PMO’s control over India’s Pakistan policy. A senior official’s tart comment was ” What will be the impact of the decision will depend on how it plays out.” Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao confirmed the PM’s announcement through her twitter account.” PM Manmohan Singh has invited President Zardari and PM Gilani of Pak to witness World Cup semifinal btw India and Pak at Mohali, Mar 30,” Rao wrote. Gilani has responded positively to the invitation, though the big question remains: Will it yield the kind of dividends that some past cricketing meets between the political leaders of the two sides did? Conversations of top functionaries of the government, made public in candid WikiLeaks cables, show there are divisions in the government on the question of the dialogue with Pakistan. In one cable, US ambassador Timothy Roemer cited M. K. Narayanan as describing the PM as a ” great believer” in talks and negotiations with Islamabad. And of allegedly telling Singh in jest after he referred to India’s ” shared destiny” with Pakistan that, “You have a shared destiny, we don’t.” Experts are divided over the PM’s initiative in inviting Zardari and Gilani for the Mohali match.Ex- foreign secretary Salman Haider said: ” It’ll give momentum to talks. This shows that there is an intention to talk and take things forward. It speaks of India’s desire to take things forward.” However, former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan G. Parthasarathy is sceptical of the purpose of the invitation. ” Relationship should have substance than symbolism. This invitation is meaningless as decisions in Pakistan are taken by its army and not by Gilani,” Parthasarathy noted.Former deputy national security adviser all dialogue getting Why Expressing former said, dialogue seems 26/ Kashmir Mumbai who There Pakistan socalled Former adviser Satish Chandra said, ” I am all for dialogue. But is this dialogue going anywhere? Are we getting anywhere with this dialogue? Why this signal?” Expressing similar sentiments, former Army chief Gen V. P. Malik said, ” There was no need for the dialogue at this stage. Nothing seems to have improved since 26/ 11 – the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and inaction against Mumbai attackers. We all know who runs the show in Pakistan.” There are divisions on the Pakistan side too, between the socalled doves and the hawks. Former Pakistan diplomat Shahryar M. Khan said that with cricket emotions running high, this was the right time to create positive energy between the sides. His enthusiasm was not shared by a former minister Sheikh Rashid.Circumspect about the gains that could come from cricket diplomacy, he asked, “Where is the peace and friendship that such visits were supposed to create?” However, efforts have continued to be made to mend the relations.advertisementAt a bilateral meeting at Thimphu in February, Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir decided to revive the dialogue to discuss ” all issues”. They are expected to meet again in June before the meeting between the foreign ministers here in July. Next week, before the India- Pakistan match, the home secretaries of the two countries will meet in New Delhi and later, in April the commerce secretaries will hold talks.Softening its stand after it suspended the composite dialogue called had revive encouraged meeting Zardari Russia Singh Sheikh Then, Gilani sidelines Thimphu taken meetings secretaries the following 26/ 11 and vowed to resume it after the perpetrators were brought to book, the government last February announced that the countries had agreed to hold talks on all issues including counter- terrorism and Kashmir. In view of the domestic political sensitivities, the process will not be called a ‘composite dialogue’. After the Mumbai attack, there had been various attempts to revive the peace process, encouraged by the US. It began with a meeting between Singh and Zardari at Yekaterinburg in Russia in June 2009 and later between Singh and Gilani at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt in July 2009.Then, in April 2010, Singh and Gilani met again, this time on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Thimphu where the decision was taken to resume structured meetings between the foreign secretaries and the foreign ministers of the two sides.Cricket diplomacy hasn’t clicked in past- FEBRUARY 1987 Then Pakistan President General Zia- ul- Haq flew in to Jaipur’s Sawai Man Singh stadium, inviting himself to watch a Test match between India and Pakistan- The visit came against the backdrop of escalating tension after the Indian Army conducted the Operation Brass Tacks manoeuvres close to the Pakistan border, and Pakistan mobilised its forces. However, the situation was defused- “Cricket for peace is my mission,” Zia had said after arriving at the Jaipur airport from Delhi, where he dined with late PM Rajiv Gandhi- The Indian team was led by Kapil Dev and the Pakistani side by Imran Khan. The Test resulted in a drawAPRIL 2005 Then Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf visited India to watch the last ODI in the Indo- Pak series at Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium in Delhi.- This was his first trip after the fiasco of the Agra summit with then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001. Musharraf had a summit meeting with PM Manmohan Singh during the visit. His constant refrain was ” peace between India and Pakistan” and the requirement of ” soft borders “.- The Indian team was captained by Rahul Dravid and the Pakistani side by Inzamam-ul-Haq. Pakistan won the match and the series Both visits failed to have a lasting impact on bilateral tieslast_img