M A I N   N E W S

Singh, Gilani to hold informal talks
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 28
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani are likely to hold informal talks in Mohali, where they will reach on Wednesday to witness the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final match.

Official sources discounted the possibility of the two leaders holding discussions on all outstanding issues which have bedevilled relations between the two countries.

The sources said the idea behind ‘cricket diplomacy’ was to provide an opportunity to the two PMs to meet in a relaxed atmosphere and enjoy the game, which could help reduce tension between the two nations.Gilani, however, has no plans to come to Delhi and will be reaching straight to Chandigarh, the sources said. He will be accompanied by the Senate Chairman, some parliamentarians and top aides. Besides, some media personnel will also be part of the nearly 50-strong Pakistani delegation.

The Indian PM will also be accompanied to Mohali by a few ministers and top officials, including National Security Adviser Shivshanker Menon. Indications are that Gilani will head straight to the PCA Stadium at Mohali on his arrival to watch the match. Singh will be hosting a dinner in honour of Gilani at the stadium itself.

Asked if the Pakistan Premier would return to Pakistan after the match, the sources said his programme was still being finalised. “Everything is in a flux…we should be in a position to give some concrete details by tomorrow,’’ they added. The Congress party, meanwhile, made it clear that Singh’s invitation to Gilani did not in anyway mean any compromise by New Delhi on the issue of cross-border terrorism.

Party spokesman Manish Tewari said the PM’s overture was reflective of India's "holistic" approach towards friendly relations with the neighbouring country and it did not mean any compromise on the issue of terrorism.

Pakistan media reports quoted Gilani as telling his Cabinet colleagues that he accepted Singh’s invitation in national interest. He said it was also a timely opportunity for the two governments to show the world that the two nations could play together and sit and deliberate together on issues of national importance.




Sonia too is coming
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

Sonia GandhiNew Delhi, March 28
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi and sister Priyanka Vadra are expected to travel to Mohali to watch the crucial semi-final.

This is not the first time that Sonia Gandhi has put in an appearance at an India-Pakistan sporting event. She was present at the National Stadium when the hockey teams from India and Pakistan played each other during last year's Commonwealth Games.

Similarly, she also made it for the one-day cricket tie between the two countries at the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium in 2005 when former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Sing had first engaged in “cricket diplomacy” to give a boost to the bilateral relations between the two countries.





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