Manmohan invitation to Gilani beyond symbolism: Pak Expert

Indian PM has invited Gilani to watch the WC cricket India-Pak semi-final.

Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 12:35 PM IST

Islamabad: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s invitation to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the cricket World Cup India-Pakistan semi-final is a great moment in the history of the two countries, an expert said, adding: "I see it beyond symbolism."

Dr Rasool Bakhsh Rais, who teaches political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences, described Singh`s invitation as a remarkable gesture and said it was a great moment in the history of the neighbouring countries.

"I see it beyond symbolism. It is not about negotiating or re-negotiating India-Pakistan relations, but the occasion will also provide an opportunity to the two prime ministers to rethink their relationship," the Dawn quoted Rais as saying.

Gilani has accepted the invitation from Manmohan Singh for the crucial match to be played between the two countries in Mohali March 30.

Gilani will meet Manmohan Singh during the match and a formal meeting will be held after the match at which bilateral matters will be discussed, official sources had said Sunday.

The sources said the two leaders will also hold discussions on "cricket diplomacy" to improve bilateral relations.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a political analyst, said the invitation by Manmohan Singh showed a major policy shift in India. After the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, New Delhi was not willing to hold talks on anything except terrorism despite Islamabad insisting on resuming a full spectrum of dialogue.

Rizvi was quoted as saying that the Gilani-Manmohan Singh meeting would help to improve the hostile atmosphere, but extraordinary outcome should not be expected.

He said friendly visits at the prime ministers` level always helped to put aside negative propaganda campaigns and remove misunderstandings.

"I believe the visit will also help relax strict visa regimes the two countries have put in place following the Mumbai attacks."

Ten terrorists from Pakistan sneaked into Mumbai and unleashed mayhem November 26-28, 2008. The terror strike left 166 people dead.