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Bomb squad combs India-Pakistan match venue


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pakistan cricket, india cricket, bomb squad
Indian bomb squad officials carry out a routine check outside The M. Chinnaswamy Cricket Stadium in Bangalore. -Photo by AFP

BANGALORE: Police bomb squad officers and sniffer dogs searched Bangalore stadium Monday as part of a massive security operation for the start of the first Pakistan cricket tour to India for five years.

Hardline Indian nationalist organisations including Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena have both threatened to hold protests outside all the venues for the five-match series, which begins in Bangalore on Tuesday evening.

The Indian government has said it will issue a record number of 3,000 visas to Pakistani fans attending the series -- the first since the 2008 Mumbai attacks which led to a complete breakdown in relations between the two countries.

“As the governments of both the countries have agreed to hold the bilateral series, no organisation will be allowed to disrupt the match,” Bangalore police commissioner Jyotiprakash Mirji told reporters.

An AFP reporter saw bomb squad officers carrying out a painstaking inspection with their dogs in and around the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore, the capital of the southeastern state of Karnataka.

As many as 5,000 security personnel, including a 100-member bomb squad, have been deployed to cover the match, fearing attempts to disrupt the game or even stage an attack.

Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist party based in Mumbai, has branded the tour a “national shame” and accused Indian cricket authorities of “betraying the country for sake of money”.

The same organisation dug up the wicket at the Feroz Shah Kotla cricket ground in New Delhi in 1999 ahead of an India-Pakistan Test although the match did go ahead.

Cricket has been used in the past to mend diplomatic ties, with the prime ministers of both nations symbolically shaking hands as they watched their teams in the semi-final of last year's World Cup in the northern Indian city of Mohali.

But the prospects of a diplomatic dividend this time round appear slim and there has been no announcement of a visit by a Pakistani leader for any match.

Ties were further strained on a trip to New Delhi by Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik this month, when he compared the Mumbai attacks to the 1992 razing of a mosque by a Hindu mob which sparked a wave of sectarian violence.

Boria Majumdar, a Kolkata-based academic and sports historian, said there was little reason to expect that the resumption of cricketing ties would herald any wider political thaw between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

“This series is not going to yield any diplomatic dividends,” he told AFP.

“Cricket needs India-Pakistan rivalry, but having said that this contest will not lead to any diplomatic breakthroughs.”

Few Pakistani fans had made it to Bangalore on Monday. But one who had travelled from the United States said it was too much to expect cricket to stimulate diplomacy every time the teams played.

“The Mohali magic cannot be repeated every time the countries face off on a cricket ground,” said 60-year-old Mohammed Bashir, who lives in Chicago.

“That the teams are playing each other on Indian soil is in itself a big thing. We should not expect anything more to come out of this encounter,” Bashir told AFP, dressed in the green and gold of the Pakistani team.

Comments (10) Closed

Indian Dec 25, 2012 05:33pm
Mr.Khan it seems you are seeing lot of things.....Hummm
SAEED MASOOD Dec 24, 2012 01:57pm
Pakistan players must be very conscious of the security guidelines and follow it to its core not to say or fear that any laps will happen but in situations like these the security formula must be applied and followed by both the host and the visiting team.
vidya Dec 24, 2012 11:11am
what's wrong in supporting nationalist parties in stead of terrorists ? Nothing wrong I think....
Rao Dec 24, 2012 04:50pm
That's right.....These people do not know the difference...I support you
Arbab Dec 24, 2012 05:55pm
Sports should be kept aside from politics.
vijay singh ivory coast Dec 24, 2012 06:53pm
Shut up Vidya .Guest is God in our culture
Khan Dec 25, 2012 06:13am
A majority of Hindu Indians are not happy with the revival of Cricketing ties. I do not foresee that BCCI will reciprocate and send a team to Pakistan. BCCI will earn close to $150 Million from 5 matches. Not that BCCI needs money, however, I do not see that Hindu Indians will permit a return visit. I suspect that Cricket diplomacy or any anticipated peace expectation will reach a dead end. BCCI understands the Hindu Public sentiment and has already decided not to allow Pakistan cricketers in IPL. What is next after this series?
ip Dec 25, 2012 06:42am
Let's get it straight. This is just another cricket series, in a calendar filled with many such meaningless encounters. As far as India-Pakistan relations are concerned, nothing will change, and nothing should change as long as the Pakistani state provides protection to perpetrators of one of the most heinous crimes ever committed by foreign nationals on Indian soil. The majority of people going to see these matches are doing so to have a day out with their families, and you will be hard pressed to find anyone who considers this as a so-called 'thaw' in relations, as if crimes committed with impunity can be just brushed under the carpet and the world can move forward.
Avik Roy Dec 25, 2012 07:23pm
Agree completely.
Rao Dec 26, 2012 02:07am
When the guest is an honourable one.