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Pakistan cancels hockey tour to India

January 02, 2009 22:38 IST

Pakistan on Friday decided not to send its hockey and squash teams to India citing security concerns for players.

The Pakistan hockey team was supposed to take part in the four-nation Punjab Gold Cup, scheduled to start in Chandigarh from January 31, while the squash team was to defend its Asian Junior title in Chennai. The tournament was supposed to start from January 16.

However, the decision to cancel the hockey team's trip was taken after Pakistan was replaced by New Zealand in the double-leg tournament that also features Beijing Olympic gold medallist Germany, the Netherlands, besides hosts India. 

"The hockey and squash federations had applied for clearance to travel to India which we have not given as we have security concerns for our sportsmen and women in India," Pakistan sports minister Aftab Shah Jillani said.

He said due to the existing tension between the two countries, the ministry thought it prudent not to send the teams to India.

"Until the relations and conditions improve between the two countries we don't think  it is wise to send our teams there. They are security threats," Jillani said. 

However, sports secretary Ashraf Khan said the decision does not mean out that Pakistan has suspended sporting ties with India. 

"I wouldn't say we have suspended sporting ties with India. We are willing to play India in any sport at a neutral venue," Khan said.

"Our only concern at t his stage was that they were genuine apprehensions about the security of our players if they went to India given the conditions in the region. But it is not a suspension of sporting ties," Khan insisted. 

Khan also said that due to the prevalent situation between the two countries, the government felt that if Pakistan teams had travelled to India, they would have not been able to give off their best. 

However, there's a strong belief that stopping the hockey and squash teams to travel across the border could be a retaliatory gesture since the Indian government had earlier decided against sending its cricket team to Pakistan in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks.

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