Islamabad will launch a diplomatic offensive against New Delhi and seek change of venue for the upcoming International Cricket Council’s World T20 tournament scheduled to be played in India next year in the wake of security threats posed by Hindu extremist groups.
This comes as the government in Indian Punjab called off the Kabaddi World Cup scheduled for November following violence triggered by the desecration of the Sikh holy book.
Activists from far-right Hindu group Shiv Sena on Monday stormed into the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) offices in Mumbai and shouted anti-Pakistan slogans just as the BCCI president and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Shaharyar Khan were to discuss the possibility of a bilateral cricket series.
“The recent incidents clearly show that India is no more a safe country for hosting international sporting events, including the T20 World Cup,” said a senior government official on Tuesday.
The official, who did not wish to be named, said the government would discuss the issue with the PCB and decide whether it was appropriate to send the national team for the mega event to be held in India early next year. “The PCB should take up this issue with the ICC and seek the change of venue,” the official added.
The PCB chairman, who is currently in New Delhi, on Tuesday dismissed speculations that Pakistan might boycott next year’s T20 World Cup. However, official sources said the final decision would be taken by the government. “The PCB is an independent body but when it comes to the security and safety of our players, the government will take the final decision,” he explained.
It is believed that the Foreign Office would also advise the PCB to stop ‘begging’ the BCCI for a bilateral cricket series. The foreign ministry believes the Indian government would not give the BCCI the go-ahead for restoring cricketing ties. “The situation is bleak. There is no chance of resumption of cricketing ties with India in near future,” said a Foreign Office official familiar with the development.
The official said if the current anti-Pakistan sentiments persisted in India, then it would be extremely difficult for the government to allow the national team to participate in the T20 World Cup.
It is believed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was keen on reviving bilateral cricketing ties with India in a bid to ease the worsening diplomatic relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. Cultural and sports exchanges in the past were used as a key confidence-building measure to improve not only people-to-people contacts but also create better atmosphere for talks on contentious issues.
Sources said Shaharyar was supposed to meet political authorities in India apart from BCCI officials in order to convince the Indian government for restoring sporting ties. However, he could not meet any political leader in New Delhi prompting the Foreign Office to conclude that PCB now must abandon efforts for cricket series with India.
Kabaddi World Cup cancelled
Indian Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Tuesday cancelled the sixth edition of the Kabaddi World Cup scheduled to be held in the state in from November 14 to 28. Badal, who also holds the sports portfolio, said that he cancelled the tournament as a “mark of grief over the recent incidents of sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji”.
Sources in the state government told IANS that the event was cancelled owing to the volatile security situation in the state after the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib.
“At a time when the entire Sikh community is shell-shocked with grief at the ghastly manner in which the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji has been desecrated, holding such a tournament is not appropriate,” Badal said in a statement. “My feelings, too, have been outraged and my conscience is not allowing me to preside over a tournament at a time when the Sikh community in India and all over the world is in grief.”