NEW DELHI: India’s tennis team will travel to Pakistan for their Davis Cup tie, the country’s governing body chief confirmed on Monday, despite strained relations between the nations.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) said the government had no issues with the players crossing the border for the Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie to be held in Islamabad.
“Yes, they are set to tour Pakistan,” AITA president Praveen Mahajan said. “We informed the government about it and they were OK with it. “We did not require a clearance from them because it is an international event but we do not do anything without asking the government.”
The nuclear-armed neighbours have gone to war three times since independence in the mid-20th century and another conflict nearly erupted earlier this year, giving an even spicier-than-usual geopolitical backdrop to sporting rivalries.
India’s cricket team has not toured Pakistan since 2007 and bilateral cricketing ties between them have remained suspended since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, with authorities blaming Pakistani militants.
Makes no demand for special security in Islamabad
Relations further soured in February this year after a suicide car bombing killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir putting question marks on the Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie, which will be held on Sept 14 and 15.
Some Indian fans and ex-players called for the team to boycott its recent cricket World Cup match against Pakistan. After India’s victory, a top minister described the triumph as ‘another strike’ on enemy territory.
Until a few years ago, Pakistan was forced to host its home Davis Cup ties at neutral venues as teams refused to travel to the South Asian nation over security concerns.
But Mahajan said India has not demanded any ‘special security’ arrangements for the upcoming tie to be played at the grass courts of the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad.
“It’s not a bilateral series, it’s the World Cup of tennis. So no government clearance was required,” AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee said. “We needed an invitation from the Pakistan Tennis Federation for the visa process which we have received. We are applying for the visas soon as it’s a lengthy process.”
India are likely to announce their touring squad in the first week of August.
An Indian tennis team last toured Pakistan in 1964 for Davis Cup when they defeated the hosts 4-0 while Pakistan lost 3-2 in their last visit in 2006 in Mumbai.
Until a few years back, Pakistan was forced to host its home Davis Cup ties at neutral venues as teams refused to travel due to security concerns.
Chatterjee said the International Tennis Federation has put in place stringent security requirements to host Davis Cup ties and India’s players are looking forward to winning the tie and progress to the World Group qualifier.
“The security arrangements are ensured by the ITF. Their officials will be present during the tie,” Chatterjee added. “We have not made any special security demands.”
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2019