Cricket diplomacy: India to issue 3,000 visas to Pakistan supporters
The Indian government is to issue a record 3,000 visas to Pakistani cricket fans attending a series of limited over matches beginning next month, an official in the interior ministry told AFP Thursday.
"We will happily host 3,000 Pakistani cricket lovers for the matches. This is the first time that we have decided to issue so many visas in one go," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
India is to host Pakistan for two T20 internationals and three 50 over matches from December 25, beginning in Bangalore. Matches are also due to be held in Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi which will host the last game on January 6.
"One thousand Pakistanis will be able to watch the Delhi match and 500 will be allowed to attend each of the other games," said the official.
"The BCCI (Indian cricket board) will be given all the necessary instructions to speed up the visa process."
The Indian Government had earlier said that it would issue a multi-city visa to Pakistani cricket lovers planning to witness the forthcoming cricket series beginning December 25 if they provide tickets of the matches and return ticket besides having an Indian sponsor.
A committee formed within the Union Home Ministry has suggested that tickets to the venue and the return tickets would ensure regulating the visiting Pakistani cricket lovers, official sources said.
Union Home Ministry, while giving a go ahead for Indo-Pak cricket series, had conveyed to Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BCCI) that it would have to strictly abide by the rules framed for allowing Pakistani spectators to enter into India.
The visa applicants will also have to attach a copy of the ticket purchased to watch the series that would comprise three ODIs and two Twenty20 Internationals between December 25, this year and January 6, next year. The ODI matches will be played in Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi and the Twenty20 games in Bangalore and Ahmedabad.
No Pakistani cricket fan will be allowed to cross the border on foot (the facility is available in Wagah) but can cross over by bus, train or can travel by air.
Sources said extra precautions would be taken before granting visas as several Pakistanis in the past have gone missing after arriving in India to watch cricket matches. 12 Pakistani men, who came to India to watch the last India-Pakistan bilateral cricket series held in November- December 2007, did not return home and are yet to be traced.
The rivals have not played a series since Pakistan's tour of India in 2007, after cricket ties were broken following the 2008 attacks in Mumbai by militants from Pakistan.
The countries -- where cricket is hugely popular -- have fought three wars since independence in 1947.
The Indian and Pakistani cricket teams have met in international tournaments since 2007 including a semi-final in last year's ODI World Cup.