Mohali: A cricket
stadium packed with Indians and Pakistani is a far cry from the
formal confines of a room in a third country. But that was how it
was for the prime ministers of the two countries, Manmohan Singh and
Yousuf Raza Gilani, who met Wednesday in Mohali to watch the World
Cup semifinal between their two countries.
It was their third meeting in three years, but the first time that
the venue is one of their own countries, rather than in a third
nation on the sidelines of a multilateral summit.
The last time the two prime ministers met to try and resolve the
fraught relationship was in April 2010 in the Bhutanese capital of
Thimphu on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC) summit.
Before that, the two met on July 16, 2009 at the Egyptian resort
town of Sharm-el-Sheikh on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement
summit. This was five months after the November 2008 Mumbai terror
A month earlier, Manmohan Singh met Pakistani President Asif Ali
Zardari at Yekaterinburg, where the Indian leader surprised him by
speaking about Pakistan's role against terror, within the earshot of
The Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting proved controversial with the joint
statement delinking further talks with Pakistan from the action
against terror. Besides, for the first time in a joint statement, it
included a reference to Pakistan's concerns on Balochistan.
This created a furore domestically, with then foreign secretary
Shivshankar Menon taking the blame. He had to wait nearly six months
before being appointed as National Security Advisor in January 2010.
The hour-long meeting in Thimphu, however, set the momentum for
further meetings, including between the foreign ministers in
The foreign secretaries met in Thimphu in 2011, and laid down a
timetable of sustained dialogue on subjects ranging from
counter-terrorism, water resources and Siachen.
And, a day ahead of both the prime ministers joining their citizens
to cheer their teams in Mohali, the home secretaries met in New
Delhi Tuesday. They agreed to set up a hotline for real-time
information sharing on terrorist threats, even as Indian
investigators were allowed to quiz the 2008 Mumbai attack suspects
prosecuted in Pakistan.
All that was planned long ago.
However, Wednesday's meeting between the two prime ministers was
virtually impromptu with Manmohan Singh taking the initiative to
invite Gilani after India won the quarter final against Australia
One more instance of what is being labelled "cricket diplomacy"
between the two countries - Gen Zia-ul Haq and Gen Pervez Musharraf
earlier travelled to India to watch cricket, an abiding obsession in