New Delhi: The much-awaited India-Pakistan hockey series, which was scheduled for April, was cancelled on Friday after the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) refused to give the green light.
While political observers felt the ongoing tension between the two countries led to the cancellation of the tour, Hockey India (HI) said they were not aware of the reason.
It is widely believed that Pakistan Parliament’s decision to pass a resolution against Afzal Guru’s execution and recent attack on the CRPF camp in Srinagar, which left five CRPF personnel dead, were the main reasons for the cancellation.
“We have been informed by MEA that the series has to be cancelled,” Hockey India (HI) secretary Narendra Batra said.
“Earlier, the series was cleared by the sports ministry and home ministry, but MEA did not give permission on Thursday night,” he added.
According to sources, the MEA has sent a one-line fax asking HI not to host Pakistan or travel to their country to play hockey without explaining the reason for its decision.
“The government must have considered all options before taking a decision and we can’t question it. However, the cancellation is surely a loss for hockey fans in both the countries,” said former India captain Zafar Iqbal.
“True, India and Pakistan are no longer the top hockey playing nations in the world but matches between them always attract crowd,” he added.
A former international, who did not wish to be named, was upset that the hockey was being used as a tool in political problems.
“The government had no problem with the India-Pakistan cricket series but Pakistan hockey players were stopped from playing in Hockey India League (HIL),” he pointed out.
“Currently, Pakistan cyclists are in the capital for the Asian Championship. In Lucknow, the Pakistan handball team are playing a tournament. Why have a different rule for hockey?” he wondered.
The Indian team, who are currently in Malaysia for the Azlah Shah tournament, were expected to play Pakistan in Ranchi, Lucknow, Delhi, Mohali and Jalandhar from April 5 to 15.
A week later, India were supposed to travel to Pakistan to play five matches.
When asked to comment on the cancellation of the 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.
“May be some elements of the tournament have been shifted. But not my information that anything has been cancelled,” Khurshid has been quoted saying outside Parliament House.
Meanwhile, in Islamabad, Pakistan said sporting ties are a part of confidence building measures. The Pakistan foreign office spokesman said: “Pakistan believes that in the larger interest of maintaining peace between Pakistan and India, sustained and uninterrupted implementation of confidence-building process, including sports events, is required.”