Mohali meet: A feel-good gesture. That's it!
There will be no summit-level meeting at Mohali between India and Pakistan on March 30.
On Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invitation, Pakistan premier Yusuf Raza Gilani will watch the cricket World Cup semi-final match to be played between India and Pakistan at Mohali.
In the run-up to the much-awaited cricket battle, signals from New Delhi suggest that Mohali is neither Sharam-el-Sheikh of 2009 nor Shimla of 1972 (where the bilateral meeting between then prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto inked a historic agreement).
'No great negotiations' are going to take place during the behind-closed-doors meeting in Mohali when 22 Indian and Pakistani cricketers will be playing the 'war of nerves' on the field.
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Image: File photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani
Both PMs will arrive at the stadium only at 4 pm
"This is going to be a general meeting, to send a good feeling around," says a senior source in the government.
Congress Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi's family may join Dr Singh at Mohali. They would be coming, primarily, to enjoy the match and share the excitement with the nation.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office claim that Dr Singh will reach the cricket ground only around 4 pm (the match begins at 2.30 pm) so that the crowd coming to the stadium won't be disturbed due to heavy security. The Pakistan prime minister will be with him.
Both prime ministers will watch the day-night match only for a couple of hours. Both of them will leave for dinner early and won't wait till the end of the match.
'Diplomacy with the background noise of cricket'
As the source in government puts it, "It will be diplomacy with the background noise of cricket."
The source added, "Already, the home secretary-level dialogue is on and a foreign secretary-level dialogue is scheduled. The dinner meeting between the two prime ministers is not meant to interfere in that process."
When asked why the government chose cricket at Mohali as the platform for bilateral diplomacy, the senior official in the PMO said, "The choice of Mohali was not made by us. It was decided by the 22 players who are due to play the semi-final match."
In fact, the semi-final is the 'final' match for many Indians, says a senior government official, dealing with the logistics of Gilani's visit.
Image: A policeman keeps vigil at the Mohali stadium
Dr Singh was planning to watch the WC final, but...
The move to invite Gilani and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has already sent positive signals not only in Pakistan but also in India. The event is being closely watched and is getting the fair amount of hype that it deserves.
It is interesting to note that Dr Singh, who occasionally watches cricket, was mulling over the idea of watching the World Cup final in Mumbai. But when by process of elimination India and Pakistan ended up playing the semi-final in Mohali, he seized the opportunity.
"The Prime Minister wanted to watch the final match in Mumbai, but this is the final," says an officer close to Dr Singh.
Dr Singh does have his list of favourite Indian players, which he keeps close to his chest.