New Delhi: Launching cricket diplomacy to give a fresh impetus to bilateral ties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday invited Pakistan President and Prime Minister to watch the Indo-Pak cricket encounter in Mohali on 30 March when he will also be present.
In an identical letters to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, he said he proposed to watch the Indo-Pak World Cup semi-final and “it gives me a great pleasure” to invite them to watch the match.
“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 said in the letters to both the leaders.
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 here in 2005 when he was in power.
In the last over two years, 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 meeting between them in July last year turned out to be a fiasco.
However, the two countries had recently decided to intensify contacts and a meeting between Home Secretaries of the two countries is slated on Monday and Tuesday here.