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India-Pakistan rift grows as hockey tour is cancelled

Their fractious relationship has been strained this year by a series of incidents in Kashmir and by India's execution of a Kashmiri, Afzal Guru, convicted for a terror attack on India¿s parliament in 2001.

NEW DELHI // India yesterday cancelled a hockey series against Pakistan in another sign of deteriorating ties between the two countries.

Their fractious relationship has been strained this year by a series of incidents in Kashmir and by India's execution of a Kashmiri, Afzal Guru, convicted for a terror attack on India's parliament in 2001.

India yesterday criticised Pakistan's parliament for passing a resolution that condemns the execution of Guru, accusing Islamabad of meddling in Indian affairs.

On Thursday, Pakistan's lower house of parliament urged India to hand over Guru's body to his family. But India is loth to do so as it fears protests in Indian-administered Kashmir like the ones that took place after Guru's execution.

The diplomatic sparring spilt over on to the sports field yesterday as India's hockey federation cancelled five games that were set to be played in India in April as well as a return series in Pakistan.

"The external affairs ministry has advised us not to go ahead with the hockey matches, so we are not going ahead with the series," said Hockey India's secretary general, Narinder Batra.

India's parliament also asserted that the state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the disputed territorial area with Pakistan, "shall always be an integral part of India".

Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir and skirmishes on the line of control that separates the countries led to a diplomatic spat last month after three Indian troops and two Pakistani troops were killed in border clashes.

An attack in Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday in which five Indian troops were killed has also increased tensions, with India's home minister suggesting that the attack, the first there in five years, was the work of Pakistani militants. India's parliament insisted that the Pakistani assembly "desist from acts of support for extremist and terrorist elements".

Some experts say that India is misreading the purpose behind Pakistan's resolution. "This is not the official state trying to pressure India. This is an election ploy," said Sushant K Singh, fellow for defence policy at the Takshashila Institution in Chennai. Pakistan is to hold general elections in May.

"Kashmir is an old emotive issue and if the senate must stay relevant, they must say these things. It appeals to the core constituents and beyond that," he said.

 

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting from the Associated Press