Gilani, manmohan talk peace amid cricket -- to 'heal wounds'

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Old 31-Mar-2011
Gilani, manmohan talk peace amid cricket -- to 'heal wounds'

Mohali March 31:

Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani chose an explosive India-Pakistan cricket clash here to discuss the prospects of healing wounds and restoring peaceful relations between their two countries.

"Indeed, this meeting today once again reaffirmed the intention of both governments to take forward the process of dialogue," Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said after the prime ministers ended their dinner at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium here.

Explaining that "dialogue is a process with which you can understand each other better", Rao revealed to the media what Gilani and Manmohan Singh really desired: "The goal is normalization of relations." Rao did not say what all the two prime ministers discussed, underlining that these were not formal talks but "a wideranging conversation in which they touched upon a number of issues of relevance to the relationship".

In response to a question, Rao underlined that Manmohan Singh made it clear that there was "a need for an atmosphere free of violence and terror to enable true normalization of relations between India and Pakistan". She quickly added that Gilani agreed with Manmohan Singh's assessment. "Every such meeting between the two countries generates an extremely positive momentum.

"This is re-engagement... the understanding generated as a result has a very positive impact on the relationship. "It's about peace, it's about healing wounds, it's about reconciliation." Manmohan Singh, who has made building friendship with Pakistan a top priority, told Gilani that it was important to have "such exchanges" - and suggested meetings between parliamentarians of both countries.

The foreign secretary made it a point to describe Pakistan as a democracy, and said it was important to promote people-to-people contacts. Gilani-Manmohan Singh engagement followed the Indian leader's dramatic decision to invite his Pakistani counterpart after India defeated Australia last week to set up a semifinal clash against Pakistan. Manmohan Singh invited both Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari to Mohali to watch the India-Pakistan match. Zardari expressed his inability to come but Gilani agreed.

Rao said that India and Pakistan -- whose relations touched an all-time low after the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008 -- had set in motion the dialogue process after a certain gap. "We have begun this year with a very positive agenda of contact and exchanges between India and Pakistan. It is a good augury for the future."

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