Govt calls off Indo-Pak hockey series amid political tensions

indopak-b-15-04-13NEW DELHI: The simmering political tensions between India and Pakistan has prompted the Indian government to call off the upcoming home-and-away bilateral hockey series between the two countries.

The Pakistan hockey team was scheduled to tour India in mid-April for five Test matches, followed by a return visit by India.

But the Ministry of External Affairs has refused to give the green signal to the planned series, a day after the Pakistan Parliament passed a resolution against Afzal Guru’s execution and the recent ‘fidayeen’ attack on a Central Reserve Police Force camp in Srinagar that left 5 CRPF personnel dead.

Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra informed that the MEA had asked them to call-off the bilateral series in a communication last evening.

“The protocol demands permission from the Sports Ministry, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs for any bilateral series. We got the permissions from the Sports Ministry and the MHA but the MEA refused to give us permission.

“The MEA had sent a fax to us yesterday, asking us not to host Pakistan or travel to the country for the series for the time being. I fully support the government’s decision keeping in mind the developments of the last two days,” Batra told PTI.

“We would have loved the series to take place but not at the cost of the respect and dignity of our nation. I don’t blame the Pakistan Hockey Federation, it is the political establishment of Pakistan which needs to understand,” he added.

During their visit to India, Pakistan was expected to play matches in the cities of Ranchi, Lucknow, Delhi, Mohali and Jalandhar between April 5-15.

After Pakistan’s visit, the Indian team was scheduled to pay a return visit and play five matches in Lahore, Faisalabad, Karachi and Sialkot from April 23.

Pakistan and India last played a bilateral hockey series in 2006 –

three matches in each country. Pakistan won three and lost one while the remaining two were drawn.

When asked to comment on the cancellation of the India Pakistan hockey series, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said: “That is not my information. Nobody is going to ask me to cancel or not to cancel. But as far as I am concerned, I have no such information.”

He said “may be some elements of the tournament have been shifted. But not my information that anything has been cancelled,” Khurshid told reporters outside Parliament House.

Reacting to the development, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla said “sports should be kept out of politics.”

It is not for the first time that the souring relations between the two countries have spilled over to the sporting arena.

In January this year, Hockey India was forced to send back all the nine Pakistani players taking part in its inaugural franchise-based league (HIL) following protests over the brutal killing of Indian soldiers near the Line of Control.

The cancellation of the hockey series came close on the heels of an abandoned bilateral snooker series between India and Pakistan earlier this month following Government’s objection. -PTI

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