Islamabad: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has accepted the invitation to visit Mohali to watch the high-voltage World Cup semi-final match between India and Pakistan on Wednesday (March 30).
The decision was taken following a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Gilani, which began at midnight on Saturday and lasted for about two hours.
A day after India had qualified for the semi-final beating world champions Australia in the quarters, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had sent an invitation to Gilani as well as Zardari to watch the match.
PM Singh has already said that he would watch the match in Mohali.
Geo TV meanwhile reported that Gilani will meet Singh informally during the match while a formal meeting between the two is planned post match. It is expected that the two Prime Ministers will discuss bilateral issues, apart from focussing on cricket diplomacy to improve bilateral ties.
Sports officials from the two neighbouring countries will also be present at Mohali to watch the match.
The semi-final match will be held a day after the Home Secretary-level talks between the two countries on March 28-29.
The PM’s invitation was seen as part of the cricket diplomacy to give a fresh impetus to bilateral ties.
Singh’s cricket diplomacy will be the first major bilateral event at the summit level between the two sides either in India or Pakistan since 26/11 attacks when relations between the two countries plunged to a new low.
Cricket diplomacy between the two countries, which have often witnessed acrimonious ties in the last over two decades, had brought the late president Zia-ul Haq and former president Pervez Musharraf to watch cricket matches in India.
Haq, a former alumini of St Stephen’s in Delhi, had come to watch a test match in Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur in February 1987 at the invitation of late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The two met and held discussions after the event in Delhi.
Musharraf, who also has his origins in Delhi, also came to watch an Indo-Pak encounter at Ferozeshah Kotla ground in New Delhi in 2005 when he was in power.
In the last over two years, the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan have met in third country locations on the margins of NAM conferences in Bhutan and Egypt.
Foreign ministers of the two countries have also met in-between but the last interaction between them in July last year was not fruitful.