Govt says ‘no’ to bilateral cricket with Pakistan
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New Delhi: Union sports minister Vijay Goel on Monday said the Indian government would not give permission for any bilateral cricket matches between India and Pakistan until the end of “cross-border terrorism”.
Goel’s comments came on a day the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were meeting in Dubai to discuss bilateral ties, which have remained suspended since 2012 due to tensions sparked by terrorist attacks in India, PTI reported.
Ties between India and Pakistan have been rocky for years following terrorist attacks in India as well as a number of instances of the beheading of Indian soldiers by Pakistan’s Border Action Teams (BATs) comprising Pakistan army regulars and terrorists along the de facto border in Kashmir. India says Pakistan supports terrorist groups that launch attacks against India, besides fomenting a rebellion in Kashmir. Both charges are denied by Pakistan which says it supports the right of self determination for the people of Indian administered Kashmir.
The Indian government’s tone indicates that New Delhi is in no mood to relent on the pressure it is exerting on Pakistan to end cross-border terrorism before starting a dialogue with Islamabad. Formal talks between the two countries have been suspended since 2013.
“BCCI should speak to the government before giving any proposal to Pakistan. I have made it clear that bilateral cricket with Pakistan is not possible till the time there is cross-border terror. We have, however, no say on multilateral events (ICC or International Cricket Council tournaments),” Goel said, according to PTI.
The PCB has already sent a legal notice to BCCI claiming damages of $60 million for allegedly not honouring an agreement that provided for five bilateral series between 2015-23.
According to PTI, a BCCI delegation led by joint secretary Amitabh Chaudhary will explain to their PCB counterparts that the series cannot be held without the Indian government’s permission and request them to withdraw the case.
If Pakistan refuses to budge, the BCCI is unlikely to pay any compensation.
The PTI report said the cash-strapped PCB’s finances were heavily dependent on a series with India. Pakistan has not hosted any international match since a terrorist attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009.
Goel’s comments indicate that engagement with Pakistan is not on cards. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to travel to Kazakhstan for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet in early June. Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif is also expected at the SCO meet. But talks between the two are unlikely given the recent escalation of tensions between the two countries—with India launching punitive strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) border in Kashmir after two of its security personnel were beheaded by a Pakistani BAT on 1 May. Pakistan responded by putting its forward bases along the LoC border in Siachen on alert.
Last year, India conducted “surgical strikes” across the LoC to take out terrorist launch pads inside Pakistan administered Kashmir, after a terrorist attack on an Indian army garrison in Uri left 19 soldiers dead in September.