Come the final weeks of November, India will witness a rare spectacle of hosting the World Cup of a major sport in a state that is arguably the hotbed for it. And while India’s neighbours Pakistan are expected to attend the Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneshwar, Times of India reports that India is “still considering” the visa applications from the Pakistani team. For their part, Pakistan had reportedly applied for visas last month for the players and support staff.
Very recently, India and Pakistan have been caught in a petty disagreement regarding the finals of the Asian Champions Trophy in Oman. While the final was called off due to adverse weather conditions and both teams seemed to have mutually arrived at that decision, the coach of the Pakistan team went back to his own country to say that it was India who had taken the decision to forfeit the match.
Visas being a problematic subject for athletes from Pakistan when it comes to India are not a new story. Just earlier this year, visas for the Asian Junior Wrestling Meet in the capital city were delayed for the Pakistani grapplers. In 2016, the Junior Hockey World Cup was held in India and Pakistan claimed a delay in issuing visas by the Indian team. However, it later transpired that the team had applied for visas well after the official deadline.
According to the same report in TOI, this upcoming Hockey World Cup has seen the International Hockey Federation (FIH) step in as they have requested the Indian Government to allow Pakistan to participate. The Pakistani Hockey Team have last played in India in 2014 when they won the Asian Champions Trophy by beating the hosts. The winning team allegedly made obscene gestures towards the home crowd following the win.
Politicl diplomacy has always been problematic between the two nations. In September, a dialogue between the foreign ministers of the two countries was announced and it was greeted as a welcome development in peace talks between them. However, the meeting was called off just 24 hours later.
Like India, Pakistan have a rich history of hockey deeply ingrained in their culture. We hope things work out for the best.