By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) – Tennis chiefs are satisfied with the current safety plan in place for next month’s Davis Cup tie between Pakistan and India in Islamabad even after the latter asked for another round of security assessment.
Pakistan last week expelled India’s ambassador and suspended bilateral trade with its neighbour after New Delhi removed “special status” from its portion of the contested region of Kashmir.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) has already named a six-member squad under captain Mahesh Bhupathi for the Sept. 14-15 tie but subsequent developments have put a question mark over the contest.
“Safety and security are the ITF’s highest priority,” the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said in a statement to Reuters.
“We are working closely with the host nation and independent expert security advisors – the ITF is satisfied with their current security assessment of the site and the security plan in place.
“The overall security risk rating for Pakistan has not changed, however, we will continue to monitor the situation closely with our advisors.”
India and Pakistan have gone to war three times since independence in the mid-20th century and another conflict almost erupted earlier this year.
Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours further soured in February after a suicide car bombing killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
An Indian tennis team last went to Pakistan in 1964 for a Davis Cup tie, defeating their hosts 4-0, while Pakistan lost 3-2 on their last visit to India in 2006.
Pakistan was forced to host Davis Cup ties at neutral venues for more than a decade as teams refused to travel to the country because of security concerns.
They played their first home tie after a gap of 12 years against Iran in 2017, while Hong Kong was relegated and fined by the ITF after they refused to travel to Pakistan the same year.
India’s cricket team has not toured Pakistan since 2007 and bilateral ties between the countries have remained suspended since 2008, although they have met in international competition.
India’s sports minister Kiren Rijiju has said the government would not prevent the team from playing the Davis Cup tie in Pakistan as it was not a bilateral series and was organised by a world body.
In an email to the ITF on Monday, AITA chief Hironmoy Chatterjee said India had full confidence the ITF and Pakistan Tennis Federation would organise an “excellent” Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie but said more security checks might be in order.
“We are aware that you had done a safety check before the diplomatic ties have been downgraded,” secretary-general Chatterjee wrote.
“ITF may find it appropriate to do another check to its own satisfaction to ensure the safety of all the stakeholders connected with the tie.
“AITA is, therefore, waiting for your final certificate confirming the safety of all the stakeholders and the details of the security plan prepared … so that we can start applying for visas (and) make necessary travel arrangements.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Nick Mulvenney)