BeyondHeadlines News Desk
New Delhi: Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has landed in Chandigarh and will be welcomed by Dr Manmohan Singh in a short while from now at the Mohali stadium, where India will take on Pakistan in the World Cup semi-finals.
Before leaving Islamabad for India, Gilani thanked Dr Singh for inviting him to the match, and said that he’s “looking forward to a great game.” He also said he believes “this match will bridge the gap” between India and Pakistan.
Captains MS Dhoni and Shahid Afridi have asked their teams to ignore the hype and focus on the game – a little tough to do, perhaps, given the circumstances.
The electric atmosphere crackled some more last night after rain began pounding Mohali, but this morning, the Sun was out. The Met department promises a clearer sky during the match. However, there is a slight possibility of a light shower in the evening.
A large delegation is accompanying Gilani. His team will use the Taj hotel in Chandigarh as its base. The main players include controversial Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who publicly warned his country’s cricket team against match-fixing, provoking fierce criticism both within and outside Pakistan.
Team Singh will include Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon. Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, as well as Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi are not part of the official delegation but will attend the game and the dinner that Dr Singh is hosting tonight for the Pakistani delegation at the stadium.
At the stadium, Gilani and Dr Singh will walk to the pitch and shake hands with both cricket teams before the match begins. They will then watch the game from a VVIP box, but are expected to exit a little later to hold informal talks.
Last week, in a move that surprised many, Dr Singh formally invited Gilani and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to watch the match with him. Gilani accepted the invitation over the weekend.
Sources say that there is no formal agenda or structure for the talks between the two Prime Ministers. This is the first time such high-level talks are being held since a group of 10 Pakistanis sailed into Mumbai in November 2008 and launched India’s worst ever terror attack.