Singh invitation mixes cricket with diplomacy

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Old 27-Mar-2011
Singh invitation mixes cricket with diplomacy

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New Delhi: Indian authorities are awaiting confirmation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday invitation to top Pakistani leaders to come to Mohali for the cricket World Cup semi-final between the two neighbours.

Islamabad has indicated that a final decision in this regard would only be taken after Pakistani premier Yousuf Raza Gilani's scheduled return from a visit to Uzbekistan on Saturday.

India and Pakistan are scheduled to clash in the second semi-final at Mohali in Punjab on Wednesday.

While there are indications that Gilani may accept the invitation, there is no word yet on whether the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari would also like to become part of the cricket diplomacy initiated by Prime Minister Singh in his bid to ease tensions. India has been lenient in issuing visas to all cricket fans holding valid tickets.

Pakistan was one of the original hosts. However, matches were moved to the other host nations due to reluctance of other countries to play in the strife-torn country.

"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," Singh wrote in identical invitations sent out to Zardari and Gilani.

Singh's invitation has been welcomed by Islamabad and created a positive atmosphere across the country with Pakistani media hailing the step.

History: Attempts at peace

- Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi invited Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq to the second day's play of a Test match at Jaipur in February 1987. It was then called cricket for peace initiative.

- Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was on board of the inaugural Delhi-Lahore bus service inaugurated in February 1999. The bus diplomacy, however, was followed by the Kargil war.

- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to a one-day international match between the two nations in Delhi in April 2005.

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