August 23, 2001

Cricketing ties will resume only after normalisation of Indo-Pak ties: Bharti

Cricketing ties with Pakistan will not be resumed unless Pakistan stopped supporting cross-border terrrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, Sports Minister Uma Bharti said on Wednesday night.

Defending the government's decision not to allow its team to go to Pakistan to play in the Asian Test Championships, Bharti told the Aaj Tak news channel there were several considerations that shaped the decision.

"First and foremost we are concerned about the security of the players. Relations between the countries will become more bitter if any of our players are mistreated there.

"Also, a game of cricket between India and Pakistan generates war-like frenzy," she said. In this context she quoted Imran Khan who had once remarked that playing against India was like fighting a jehad (holy war).

She said cricket was a gentleman's game and the purpose was to let it remain one. "Sports should encourage friendship and not become a source for generating anger and ill-will," Bharti said.

The minister also categoricaly ruled out India's participation in matches at any of the irregular venues including Sharjah and Toronto. "The matches are played here only because of commercial considerations. We want to retain the basic spirit of the game and not kill it by over-commercialisation," she said.