In a highly controversial move, the Indian High Commission in Pakistan has decided not to grant visas to former world champions Pakistan to come and participate in the World Junior Squash Championship. The Championship is expected to take place in Chennai starting from July 18 and finishing ten days later.
This latest move by the Indian High Commission is also a direct violation of the International Olympic Committee's code that all member countries have to aid and assist sportspersons for all the major sporting events. Although Squash is not an Olympic sport, both India and Pakistan are members of the IOC and are thus obliged to the rules.
India is hosting the World Junior Championships for the third time since 2002, in what is another victory for a gradually developing sport. India's fierce rivals Pakistan are the most decorated side in the tournament, having won it on five occasions. Therefore, it is a bold move from the Indian High Commission to deny visas to the quintuple champions.
A total of nine members were chosen for the upcoming World Junior Squash Championship, which included six players and three coaches. All of them were denied visas to visit India for the forthcoming tournament.
According to reports in the Pakistan media, the Indian High Commission went against the rules of the IOC by keeping their visas for months and then later returning them. This has without a doubt angered the Pakistan squad, who were gearing up to bag their sixth title at the Championships.
Pakistan Squash Federation's Group captain Tahir Sultan explained the situation while speaking to Pakistan news outlet, The News.
“The PSF had submitted visa documents well in time. Every requirement was fulfilled as no gap was left for any objection. India surprisingly refused visa without any justification,” Sultan told The News.
Sultan said that the correct procedures were followed while applying for the visas and that they were applied for well in advance. However, the Indian High Commission's refusal to grant them has left the Pakistan Squash Federation bewildered.
“Passports were returned by Indian High Commission stating that they are not in a position to issue visas. PSF has approached the world squash bodies to look into the matter and ensure participation of Pakistan players in the World Junior Squash Championship 2018 or cancel this event as organizers are doing injustice to Pakistan. This is totally against the ethics of sports. We believe that sportsmen help in strengthening relations amongst nations,” he told the Pakistani media outlet.
Speaking to The Bridge, Chief National Coach of Squash in India Cyrus Poncha gave his statement on the situation.
"I am not aware of the Indian High Commission but I am aware that the Pakistan Squash Federation has written-in to the Squash Federation. The Squash Federation, in-turn, is trying to find out what the actual position is," Poncha said, "We will give a response then."
In Pakistan, India will lose one of its fiercest competitors. The five-time World Champions bring about a certain level of competition to the tournament which, in turn, helps other teams improve their game. However, the Indian coach played down the theory, stating that India themselves have been on the rise.
"Pakistan squad has done well in the past, no doubt," Poncha said, "However, in the last Asian Junior Championship (Squash), India won the Gold medal."
Although India has been doing well in Junior Squash, the loss of their fiercest competitor will be a blow. However, more worrying is the fact that once again politics has entered the realm of sports and has affected relations between the two countries.
The situation is currently developing and it remains to be seen what actions are taken, if any, to solve the situation and make sure the same doesn't happen again in the future. All the parties involved have around twenty days to come up with a solution as the World Junior Squash Championship begins on July 18 in Chennai.