India v Pakistan, 2nd semi-final, World Cup 2011, Mohali
Pakistan PM accepts Indian invitation
Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Gilani has accepted the invitation of his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, to attend the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan in Mohali on March 30. Relations between the two countries took a turn for the worse in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008, and the cricket teams of the two countries haven't played each other on home soil since. Analysts say the Indian prime minister's latest gesture will help to break the diplomatic deadlock.
"It was decided in response to the Indian Prime Minister's invitation that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will visit India to witness the semi-final cricket match," presidential spokesman Faharullah Babar said on Sunday in Islamabad.
Cricket has been used as an instrument of diplomacy between India and Pakistan in the past. In 1987, during an India-Pakistan Test in Jaipur, the then president of Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq paid a visit to the Sawai Mansingh Stadium and met Rajiv Gandhi, India's prime minister. Then, in 2004, India toured Pakistan for a full series for the first time in 15 years as the governments of the two countries aimed at improving relations.
The build-up to the upcoming semi-final in Mohali has been massive. Tickets were sold out well in advance, hotels within a 25 km radius of the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium have no rooms available and almost 6,500 visas are expected to be issued for fans travelling from Pakistan. India and Pakistan have played each other on four occasions in World Cups, with India winning each time.