Tue, Dec 25, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Bomb squad combs venue for India-Pakistan match

AFP, BANGALORE, India

Mohammed Bashir, a 60-year old US-based Pakistani cricket fan, holds up the national flags of India and Pakistan yesterday in Bangalore, India.

Photo: AFP

Police bomb squad officers and sniffer dogs searched Bangalore stadium yesterday as part of a massive security operation for the start of the first Pakistan cricket tour to India for five years.

Hardline Indian nationalist organizations, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena, have both threatened to hold protests outside all the venues for the five-match series, which begins in Bangalore this evening.

The Indian government has said it will issue a record number of 3,000 visas to Pakistani fans attending the series — the first since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“As the governments of both the countries have agreed to hold the bilateral series, no organization will be allowed to disrupt the match,” Bangalore police commissioner Jyotiprakash Mirji told reporters.

Bomb squad officers carried out a painstaking inspection in and around the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore.

Cricket has been used in the past to mend diplomatic ties, with the prime ministers of both nations symbolically shaking hands as they watched their teams in the semi-final of last year’s World Cup in the northern Indian city of Mohali.

Few Pakistani fans had made it to Bangalore yesterday. However, one who had travelled from the US said it was too much to expect cricket to stimulate diplomacy every time the teams played.

“The Mohali magic cannot be repeated every time the countries face off on a cricket ground,” said 60-year-old Mohammed Bashir, who lives in Chicago.

“That the teams are playing each other on Indian soil is in itself a big thing. We should not expect anything more to come out of this encounter,” Bashir said.

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