India not game, calls off cricket tour to Pakistan (Roundup)

December 18th, 2008 - 8:46 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Karachi, Dec 18 (IANS) The chill in their strained ties deepened Thursday with India calling off the cricket team’s tour to Pakistan - the first major step signalling New Delhi’s growing impatience with Islamabad’s inaction against terror outfits suspected of masterminding the Mumbai carnage. Besides the strained relations between the neighbours in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, Indian players too perceived a threat to their security. In New Delhi, government officials pointed out that security of the cricket team was a real concern in view of the spate of terrorist incidents in Pakistan much before the 26/11 three-day terror siege of Mumbai.

“We cannot go ahead with the tour,” Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) spokesperson Rajeev Shukla said. “It is standard procedure. The government told us it could not permit the tour in the present scenario.”

According to Indian government sources, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs M.S. Gill had spoken to BCCI president Shashank Manohar to convey their decision.

The Indian team was scheduled to play three Tests, five one-day internationals and one Twenty20 beginning next month.

“It’s a clear message to Pakistan that normal ties, that include sporting links, will not be possible unless Pakistan stops denying the existence of terror outfits in that country and takes action against them,” reliable sources told IANS.

The cancellation of the cricket tour - a big draw between the two cricket-crazy countries - is also the first step impinging people-to-people ties which has remained a bulwark of India-Pakistan relations despite diplomatic ups and downs.

However, the government has not officially linked the cancellation of the tour to the Mumbai terror attacks. Instead, the BCCI officials cited security conditions in Pakistan as a reason for the cancellation of the tour.

The Pakistan Cricket Board PCB) has been working overtime and using diplomatic channels to save the tour as the Pakistan team has played little cricket in the last one year. The PCB could lose potential earnings of around $20 million because of the cancellation.

The PCB learnt about India’s decision to cancel the home series through an email received at its Lahore headquarters Thursday afternoon.

A PCB spokesman said the email was sent to Board chairman Ijaz Butt by BCCI President Shashank Manohar.

“The BCCI has officially conveyed to the PCB that the Indian cricket team will not visit Pakistan to undertake their scheduled tour under the Future Tour Programme.

“This was officially conveyed by the BCCI President Shashank Manohar through an e-mail message that reached us at 1533 hours on Thursday.”

The spokesman added: “In his message the BCCI president has said that the Indian government has refused to grant permission to the Indian cricket team to tour Pakistan.”

India had earlier called off their junior hockey team’s tour to Pakistan on security grounds, but that was a fortnight before the Mumbai attacks.

The Mumbai attacks, however, changed the tone and tenor of India-Pakistan relations.

With Pakistan resorting to denial and diversionary tactics, as New Delhi sees it, and refusing to hand over 40 fugitives wanted in India in various terrorist and criminal activities, India decided to suspend the composite dialogue process.

Trade talks between the two countries were called off early this month and a decision was taken to put the dialogue process on hold till Pakistan takes “visible and verifiable” action against terror outfits.

Sources in New Delhi said that the cancellation of the cricket tour was a pointed message to Pakistan that normalization of ties between the two countries will not be possible unless Pakistan addresses India’s concerns over cross-border terror.

The Mumbai attacks left more than 170 people, including 26 foreigners, dead.

Australia refused to tour Pakistan and then the International Cricket Council postponed the Champions Trophy after several teams were not ready to play in the country due to safety fears.

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