Indo-Pak bonhomie has a cricket glue

Gilani accepts Manmohan invite to watch semifinal
Last Updated 27 March 2011, 19:07 IST

Cricket diplomacy is yet again the flavour of the season since the heady 2004-05 season when India undertook a full tour of Pakistan for the first time in a decade.

An ambience of feel-good has been created by both sides in the run-up to the Wednesday’s match.

Adding to the renewed positive vibes between the two countries, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, on Sunday, remitted the jail term of Indian convict Gopal Das, imprisoned in Pakistan for 27 years on humanitarian grounds.

The remission was granted on the advice of the Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to “honour an appeal of the Supreme Court of India to the government of Pakistan”, said Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar.

Earlier on Saturday, New Delhi had announced to increase the staying period for people visiting Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to six months with multiple entries ostensibly to encourage more people- to- people contact across the Line of Control.

Pak visitors

Responding to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation to Gilani to witness the Mohali match, the Pakistan Prime Minister's Office on Sunday released a list of 14 senior government functionaries who would attend the Wednesday match. The list includes Prime Minister, Minister of External Affair Indira Rabbani, Information Minister, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and three officials from the PMO.

The bilateral relationship between the two countries, which is in deep-freeze since 26/11, is set to be revived with Pakistan Interior Secretary Chaudhary Qamar Zaman crossing over into India on Sunday with a six- member delegation to hold talks with his Indian counterpart G K Pillai in New Delhi on Monday.

"Such efforts (invitation from Singh to Gilani and Zardari) between the two sides would enhance peaceful relations and promote people-to-people contact," Zaman said at the Attari-Wagah border before flying to Delhi.

After the Home Secretary level talks, Commerce Secretaries and Water Resources Secretaries of the two countries are expected to meet in the near future. The two sides decided to resume comprehensive dialogue on all outstanding issues in Thimphu in February.

No major breakthrough is expected at the official- level talks being held after a gap of nine months. But ice may be broken for the resumption of substantial dialogue later. The issues on the table include Islamabad's reluctance in co-operating fully in bringing to justice the perpetrators of 26/11 attacks.

"Pakistan's lack of sincerity in cooperating with India in any anti-terror initiatives could be the reason behind little enthusiasm on the part of Indian security establishment towards the talks," an official said.

The prosecution's attempt in Pakistan to bring the 26/11 guilty to justice "has not moved an inch" and India's request for bringing to book the handlers of the attacks has gone unheeded. However, for the moment, cricket euphoria appears set to drown out the charade of realpolitik.

(Published 26 March 2011, 06:57 IST)

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