Mumbai chill catches sports, India calls off Pakistan cricket tour


New Delhi : The chill in their ties deepened Thursday with India calling off the Indian 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.

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According to government sources, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs M.S. Gill spoke to the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) president Shashank Manohar to convey the government 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 calling off the tour.

“The government informed us it will not be possible to go in the prevailing circumstances,” BCCI spokesman Rajeev Shukla told reporters here while announcing that the tour is off.

“It is for the government to make an assessment of the security situation,” he said.

The 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.

However, chances brightened when Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi assured his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee Nov 26 that Pakistan will do all it can to ensure the security of the Indian cricket team.

In fact, minutes before terrorists struck in Mumbai Nov 26 night, Mukherjee had indicated that India may send the cricket team after a security review.

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 for various terrorist attacks and crimes, 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 said that the cancellation of the cricket tour was a pointed message to Pakistan that normalisation of ties between the two countries will not be possible unless Pakistan addresses India’s concerns over cross-border terror.

The Mumbai attacks left killed more than 170 people, including 26 foreigners, and nearly 300 injured.