PC nod to Indo-Pak series

Considered a hardliner in the UPA government, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram gave the go ahead to Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) to resume cricket ties with Pakistan, without discussing the security issues with his officials.

BCCI spokesperson and union minister Rajeev Shukla on Monday had announced that the Indo-Pakistan series would be held in December since the Board was firm that Team India would not play the neighbour at a neutral venue. Shukla also said that Chidambaram and external affairs minister S M Krishna had no objection to the Pakistan tour.

It is learnt that the BCCI has so far not submitted a written proposal seeking home ministry’s views on hosting Pakistan team for the cricket matches – three one dayers and two T20s.  

The surprised officials are treating their minister’s decision as a diktat. Privately though, they concede that there was no need to invite the Pakistan team when Islamabad is unresponsive to just demands for nailing perpetrators of 26/11 terror strike or on Sir Creek and Siachen.

Sources said the ministry will provide security to the visiting team but due care will have to be taken while issuing visas to prospective Pakistani spectators for the matches.  As the government issues a large number of visas in a short span of time, 360 degree profiling becomes difficult, he noted.

In the past, many suspect game enthusiasts gained entry and vanished into thin air post-match, giving nightmares to sleuths.

This fear was confirmed during the interrogation of deported 26/11 key handler Abu Jundal, who revealed that banned terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) had exploited similar friendly overtures to visit India on valid visas to watch cricket matches. They doubled the opportunity for conducting reece and meeting contacts for future strikes.

Jundal, during interrogation, had also revealed that one of the main accused of 26/11 attacks, Sajid Wajid alias Sajid Mir, had visited India in 2005 under the guise of seeing the India-Pakistan cricket match held at Mohali.

Security audit must

According to procedure, the BCCI should submit the itinerary of their invitation to a visiting team to the sports ministry, which in turn will forward it to the ministries of home, external affairs and finance for their nod to host the tournament or travel abroad.

Post 1999 Kargil war, which had pushed the two nations to the brink of a war, this routine exercise of government vetting international sporting events had assumed serious connotations due to the security implications. Now the sporting bodies have to have prior security audit of the tournament done by the MHA.
 
The BCCI working committee, apparently, had not listed Indo-Pak cricket series on its agenda for the Monday meeting. BCCI president N Srinivasan raised the issue of holding the two-nation tournament and Rajiv Shukla backed him by informing the panel that the government was keen to engage Pakistan on sporting grounds as well.  

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