M Reyaz, BeyondHeadlines
New Delhi: In a surprise move, Prime Minster Dr Manmohan Singh wrote letters to his counterpart in Pakistan Yusuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari, extending them invitations to come to Mohali to watch the expected high octane semi final of the ICC World Cup 2011 between two arch rivals.
Extending invitation to President Zardari, Dr Singh wrote: “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 also extended invitation to Gilani’s “gracious wife” to visit Mohali in his letter to the Pakistani prime minister.
According to media reports, the prime minister “personally” took the decision without consultation of the Ministry of External Affairs. The prime minister’s office (PMO) has further directed the Punjab Cricket Association to make “special enclosure” for visiting Pakistani fans for the March 30 match.
The invitation made headlines in leading Pakistani dailies as well. Welcoming the gesture, Farhatullah Babar, spokesperson of President Zardari, said: “We welcome the invitation. The prime minister is out of the country, and a decision will be taken in this regard when he returns from Tashkent.”
Although Zardari is reportedly unlikely to come, Gilani might accept the offer.
Meanwhile, Janta Party President Subramanian Swamy requested the prime minister against watching the match in ground as it would put “undue pressure” on players. He further added: “We have centrally held Pakistan guilty of the Mumbai attacks. It won’t be proper for him to share the dais with Pakistani leaders. It will a betrayal of NSG jawans’ sacrifice.” March 30 is also the founding day of the National Security Guards (NSG).
Bout of “cricket diplomacy” between India and Pakistan has often helped relieve pressures from the high octane relations that India and Pakistan share, General Ziaul Haq, Pravez Musharraf too visited earlier. But this has not changed much on the ground.