S Asia leaders to watch World Cup

Security is tight ahead of the big match

The prime ministers of India and Pakstan are due to attend the World Cup cricket semi-final between the two countries in the Indian city of Mohali.

This is the first time the two sides are playing each other’s soil since the 2008 Mumbai (Bombay) attacks.

Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours hit a low after Pakistan-based militants attacked Mumbai.

The match in Mohali is expected to be watched on television by more than a billion people.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is travelling at the personal invitation of his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, in what is being described as “cricket diplomacy”.

The two leaders are are due to arrive in Mohali on Wednesday, enter the ground together, meet the players and watch the game together.

They are due to return to their respective capitals, Delhi and Islamabad, after the end of the match, reports say.

It is not clear whether the two leaders will hold any talks on the sidelines of the game.

“I am going to watch the match. It is too early to expect anything else,” Mr Gilani told reporters ahead of the game.

The meeting between the two leaders comes a day after India and Pakistan agreed to let their officials visit each others’ countries to investigate the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The breakthrough followed talks between the two sides in Delhi.


The BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Mohali says that with only half of the stadium’s 28,000 tickets open to the public, there are none to be had except on the black market.

Tickets are apparently selling for up to ten times their original value, our correspondent says.

Pakistan has declared a half-day holiday to allow fans to watch the match, while many offices in both countries said they would shut for the occasion.

“This is a more important event than any other event in Pakistan this year,” one fan, Karachi-based fund manager Omar Ehtisham Anwar, told Reuters news agency.

“There is no way I would miss even a second of this match – I will try to not even blink during the game.”

In India, many will return home early. Giant television screens have been installed in markets and restaurants for people to watch the match.

“We do not have any animosity towards the Pakistan team,” Indian cricket fan Ravi Ansal told the AFP news agency.

“They are a fine team and if India go on to lose the semi-final, I will cheer for Pakistan in the final.”

The match is being held amid tight security and authorities have imposed a ban on flights over the stadium.

Reports say over 2,000 police and paramilitary forces have been deployed around the venue.

“We are leaving nothing to chance. The security will be multi-layered,” local police chief GPS Bhullar told reporters.

In February, the two countries agreed to resume peace talks “on all issues”. Peace moves were put on hold after the 2008 attacks, although the sides have met a number of times in the past year.

Pakistan’s foreign minister will visit India by July to review progress in the dialogue.

Leave a comment