IPL fuels diplomatic barbs

Pak players rejection triggers strong reactions from Islamabad
Last Updated 21 January 2010, 19:34 IST
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As the IPL slight of the Pakistani players triggered strong reactions from Islamabad, New Delhi on Thursday said that the Indian government should not be held responsible for this. India also advised Pakistan to introspect on the reasons that strained the relations between the two neighbours.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said Pakistan should draw the line between the Indian government and the organisers of the IPL. “The government has nothing to do with IPL  on selection of players and various exercises that are connected with it.
Referring to the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ warning about the possibility of yet another 26/11 type attack on India by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) in future, Krishna also said New Delhi would have to be remain prepared for any eventuality.

Defence Minister A K Antony too said India would always remain impatient unless Pakistan dismantled all terror infrastructure in its territory and punished the plotters of the attacks in Mumbai.

New Delhi’s tough-talking was in retaliation to Islamabad’s angry reaction to the rejection of the Pakistani players by all the eight IPL franchises in the auction on Tuesday. Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said his country’s cricketers had been insulted by India and that it showed that New Delhi was not serious about launching a peace process with Islamabad.

“India or any other country that does not give respect to Pakistan will be treated the same way by us. If there is a desire to improve Indo-Pak friendship, respect should be given to Pakistani sportspersons,” Malik said.

Sharp reaction

The National Assembly of Pakistan decided not to send any parliamentary delegation to India while Pakistani Sports Minister Ejaz Jhakhrani said that the rejection of players was a conspiracy. Pakistan’s cricket fraternity also reacted sharply, with former skipper Zaheer Abbas saying the country should pull out of next month’s hockey World Cup in New Delhi.

But New Delhi reiterated that it has nothing to do with the IPL. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement claimed that 17 Pakistani cricketers had been issued requisite Indian visas at a very short notice in December 2009 and January 2010 to participate in IPL 2010.

Two visas were issued in Islamabad, while three were issued in Wellington and 12 in Sydney, as the touring Pakistani cricketers had applied for it. The MEA claimed that it had facilitated necessary clearances from other ministries of the Indian Government, following a request from the Pakistan Cricket Board to Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
India pointed out that cricketers from Pakistan had participated in the first edition of the IPL in 2008, but not in the second edition in 2009, which had been held in South Africa. A Pakistani cricketer participated in the Champions League T20 tournament held in India in October 2009.

“The participation or absence of Pakistani cricketers in a commercial event of the nature of IPL is, thus, a matter not within the purview of the Government,” the MEA stated, adding: “Blaming the Government for the absence of Pakistani players from the next edition of IPL is unfortunate.”

The IPL snub for Pakistanis not only triggered an exchange of diplomatic barbs between New Delhi and Islamabad, but also seems to have dimmed hope for a possible thaw in the frosty relation between the two countries in the wake of the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

(Published 21 January 2010, 12:26 IST)

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