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The stage was set for an Indian team to tour Pakistan after 12 years across any sport. Fifty-five years later, India was all set to go to Pakistan to take part in Davis Cup tennis. However, the cloud of uncertainty has again loomed large following India’s decision to revoke Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The latest decision has resulted in tension to mount between the two Asian neighbours.
Amid rising diplomatic tensions with Pakistan, India’s national tennis federation, All India Tennis Association (AITA), is likely to approach the sport’s world governing body International Tennis Federation (ITF), seeking a neutral venue for the Davis Cup tie against the neighbours, which was originally planned in Islamabad.
Following the revoking of Article 370, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with India. The Indian envoy in Pakistan was asked to leave the country.
The tie is scheduled for September 14 and 15 in the Pakistani capital and the federation had begun the process to procure visas for the players.
“If they (Pakistan) don’t issue visas, how do we go to Pakistan? They might not issue the visas. And if they give visas, will they be able to give us proper security so that we feel comfortable?” he elaborated on the many predicaments that AITA is dealing with right now.
No Indian Davis Cup team has travelled to Pakistan since 1964 and bilateral cricket ties between the two countries have been dormant since the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai.
“Pakistan has played a lot of ties at neutral venues. So we will definitely approach the ITF for a neutral venue because the situation is very sensitive at the moment. They have to take a call.
“But we will not say that we will not go to Pakistan. I don’t want to take that road, I don’t want the team to be penalised,” added the AITA official.
What if the ITF refuses to shift the tie, Chatterjee said, “Security parameters are set by the ITF, not us. In case of any mishap, the responsibility will be with the ITF. That’s why they have to look into it in a proper manner.”
Chatterjee said in the current scenario, they will also seek the central government’s view.
“The relations with AITA and Pakistan Tennis Federation are very cordial but it’s an issue between two countries. We will wait and then approach both the ITF and our government,” he said.
Earlier, the AITA had maintained that the Sports Ministry has not raised any objection to the team travelling to Pakistan. It had also asserted that AITA did not need either the Home Ministry or the Ministry of External Affairs’ approval to send players to Pakistan.
When Hong Kong had refused to travel to Pakistan in 2017 for the Group II semifinals, their federation was fined USD 10,000 by the ITF, which also demoted the team to a lower Group in Asia/Ocean zone.
If India forfeit the tie, the team will be left to fight it out in Group II next year and make its way up in the following years.
There are four groups in Asia/Oceania zone, with I being the highest and IV the lowest.
However, if visas are not granted to the Indian players and officials, then the ITF cannot hold AITA responsible for the tie not going ahead and the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) will be answerable for such a situation.