MUMBAI (Reuters) – Indian tennis players want safety guarantees before they travel to Islamabad for their Davis Cup tie against Pakistan, captain Mahesh Bhupathi said on Wednesday.
Pakistan last week expelled India’s ambassador and suspended bilateral trade and all public transport links with its neighbour after New Delhi removed “special status” from its portion of the contested region of Kashmir.
The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from colonial power Great Britain in 1947. They came close to a third in February after a deadly attack on Indian police by a Pakistan-based militant group resulted in air strikes by both countries.
Bhupathi said security was his main concern for the team.
“We just want guarantees on safety,” he told Reuters by email.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) said on Wednesday they had written to the sport’s governing body once again asking them to shift the tie to a neutral venue or to postpone it for a couple of months until tensions simmer down.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has already responded to a previous AITA request, saying they were satisfied with the current safety plan in place in Islamabad.
“The recent developments have resulted in an atmosphere which is not conducive for a happy friendly tie between the two teams which have immense respect for each other,” AITA General Secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee wrote to the ITF in an email seen by Reuters.
“Whether or not there is a security threat in Islamabad, the moods of the two nations are deeply affected and there is an undercurrent of tension which is perhaps not being taken into account by the Security Agency of ITF in their assessment.”
The India association have also asked the ITF to share the security reports from its assessment of the situation in Islamabad and to set up a call between their respective security consultants.
The AITA has named a six-member squad under Bhupathi for the Sept. 14-15 tie.
An Indian tennis team last went to Pakistan in 1964 for a Davis Cup tie, defeating the hosts 4-0, while Pakistan lost 3-2 on their last visit to India in 2006.
Pakistan was forced to host Davis Cup ties at neutral venues for more than a decade as teams refused to travel to the country because of security concerns.
They played their first home tie after a gap of 12 years against Iran in 2017, while Hong Kong was relegated and fined by the ITF after they refused to travel to Pakistan the same year.
India’s cricket team have not toured Pakistan since 2007 and bilateral ties between the countries have remained suspended since 2008, although they have met in international competition.
India’s sports minister Kiren Rijiju has said the government would not prevent the team from playing the Davis Cup tie in Pakistan as it was not a bilateral series and was organized by a world governing body.