Border Tensions Impact on Kabaddi: Pakistani Players Outed from Mumbai League
Pro Kabaddi League
NEW DELHI: As India and Pakistan exchange fire at the border and rhetoric on the political stage, the conflict between the two countries is quietly playing out in another arena. Two Pakistani players that had signed up for an ongoing professional kabaddi league in India will not be playing any match in Mumbai and Pune due to “security concerns.” Interestingly, the move follows protests by the Shiv Sena demanding that the Pakistani players be removed from the league.
“Franchises will not field players of Pakistani origin for matches held in Mumbai and Pune,” said Mashal Sports, the organisers of Pro Kabaddi 2015, in a written statement to Pakistani paper Dawn. “This is in light of security concerns for the safety and success of the tournament while being hosted in Mumbai and Pune,” the statement said, without clarifying what the “security concerns” were.
Mashal Sports said that the decision was taken “in consultation with the AKFI and the IFK” – the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India and the International Kabaddi Federation.
The move follows the Shiv Sena’s protest over the inclusion of Pakistani players in the Pro Kabaddi League. On Wednesday, the Shiv Sena led a march outside the office of the organiser of the event, Star Sports.
The Indian Express quoted Shiv Sena leader Ashish Chemburkar saying, "They are killing our soldiers on the border and we are allowing their citizens to take part in tournaments here. We have told the channel that we will not allow the event to take place in the state if it does not exclude Pakistani players from the event." “We will launch a Sena-style protest if they continue to play in the tournament,” he added.
Earlier this week, distributor B4U Films decided to not screen Pakistani movie Bin Roye in the state of Maharashtra, following protests by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
It is worth noting that the BJP is in power in Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, at least five civilians were killed as India and Pakistan exchanged fire along the LoC. Pakistan accused India of unprovoked firing in which four civilians were killed and one injured. India said one woman was killed and three other civilians wounded in firing by Pakistani soldiers.
The cross border fire followed Pakistan’s army saying that it had shot down an Indian “spy” drone. Pakistan summoned the Indian envoy to hear a "strong protest over airspace violation", a statement by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said.
The upswing in tensions follows what seemed to be a conciliatory move as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepted -- for the first time -- an invitation by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to visit Pakistan.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been strained off late, with the sit-down meeting at the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Ufa, Russia, being the first of its kind between the two leaders in over a year. According to an Indian publication, the request for the meeting was initiated by New Delhi. Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar reportedly made a request to Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry through the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan on July 3, shortly after meeting the Pakistani High Commissioner.
Tensions have been high since the last time the two leaders met one-on-one, which was at PM Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in May 2014. Efforts to conduct similar meetings, such as a meet at November’s South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Nepal, did not materialise.
Since then tensions have simmered over a range of issues. The two sides have been engaged in cross-border firing along the Line of Control, claiming dozens of life and sparking rhetoric blaming the other camp from both India and Pakistan. There was also a flare up in rhetoric after PM Modi visited Bangladesh and more recently, after India’s covert operation in Burma. Another contentious issue is the release of 26/11 blast mastermind and leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who was recently granted bail released from Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi in April this year. In fact, when PM Modi met Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, the issue of Lakhvi’s bail was raised.
In spite of these tensions, whilst the two Prime Ministers have not met, meetings at other levels have continued. S. Jaishankar travelled to Islamabad in March this year, where he met Chaudhry and the two reportedly discussed strategies for renewing the Indo-Pak peace dialogue.
The meeting was significant as it was the first official step since India had cancelled secretary-level talks -- that had been agreed to during Sharif’s visit for PM Modi’s inauguration ceremony -- over Pakistan’s decision to meet Kashmiri separatist leaders in August last year. Speaking at the United Nations last month, Sharif said that India’s decision to cancel the talks had resulted in a “missed opportunity.” Modi, speaking at the UN the next day, responded saying that India was not opposed to talks, but would not participate “in the shadow of terror” and that it was upto Pakistan to “create a conducive atmosphere for talks.”
Further, tensions between the two countries have been high as border skirmishes across the Line of Control that began in late 2014, continue in 2015. The firing prompted Pakistan penning a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon that invoked the UN to implement resolutions for a plebiscite in Kashmir. The letter marked a major reversal of Pakistan’s position for over a decade, sending bilateral relations between the two countries plummeting.
However, the first sign that the situation was changing came when Pakistan’s former National Security Adviser Major-General (Retd.) Mahmud Durrani met with NSA Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar in March. The Citizen had the reported that the meeting could be an attempt at resuming back channel diplomacy. Although the MEA spokesperson dismissed a question in regard to whether this could pave the way for the resumption of an India-Pakistan dialogue, General Durrani was quoted by The Hindu saying that his impression is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would “like to move forward” on the dialogue, but would rather not pick up the old format of the composite dialogue process. “Mr. Modi is a different man with a different mind and a different thinking from the previous Prime Minister,” The Hindu quoted General Durrani as saying. “I think he will probably engage with Pakistan, but he would like to do that in his own way.”