Gilani in India, cricket diplomacy gets underway | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Gilani in India, cricket diplomacy gets underway

Leading a high-power delegation to watch a high-voltage match, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has arrived in Mohali as the cricket diplomacy gets underway. Jayanth Jacob reports.

chandigarh Updated: Mar 30, 2011 17:27 IST
Jayanth Jacob

Leading a high-power delegation to watch a high-voltage match, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has arrived in Mohali as the cricket diplomacy gets underway.

Gilani on his first visit to India as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and for the longest high-level talks between the two countries after the 26/11 Mumbai attack, was accompanied by his wife Fauzia and they were received at the defence airport in Mohali by union minister of state for communication Sachin Pilot and Pakistan High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik among others.

After arriving at the Chandigarh airport, he went to Taj Hotel where Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh's wife and daughter hope to meet the Pakistani PM to renew their appeal for Singh's release.

After taking rest, the 58-year-old leader proceeded to the Mohali stadium accompanied by his wife and some ministers to watch the match.

"As far as our relations are concerned, I am happy that our talks have resumed. The talks between the Interior Secretaries were conducted in a positive manner. I appreciate that," Gilani said before boarding his Pakistan Air Force flight to Mohali.

Pakistani leader was received at the stadium by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh In between watching the match, the two leaders will hold talks followed by early dinner at around 7.30 pm.

Mixing cricket and diplomacy, Prime Minister Singh invited Gilani for watching the match and for a round of talks after it became clear last week that the two teams will face off in the semi-final.

The idea behind my visit to Mohali is to promote cricket and friendship with India," Gilani said. He described Singh as an experienced politician with a positive attitude.

"He (Singh) wants to work for peace and prosperity in this region. We are both committed to this and we want the environment to improve so that we can serve the people," Gilani said.

"I have never seen him (Singh) being negative about this. I have always found him to be positive," he said.

Gilani said he expected his visit to lead to "some progress" between the two countries and "an improvement in relations". Besides, the Pakistan team "will get a boost", he added.

Asked if he would try to move from playing "a one-day series to a longer series" during his talks with Singh at Mohali, Gilani replied: "Naturally when we go (to India), the talks will be held according to the opportunity."

In response to another question on whether he would bowl a googly to Singh, Gilani said, "I am going to watch the cricket match. It's too early to expect (anything)."