India urged to boycott World Cup opener against Pakistan as tensions rise

DUBAI: Cricket tensions between India and Pakistan have been heightened by boycott calls in India ahead of their T20 World Cup clash on Monday.

A series of killings in occupied Kashmir has set off the anger, even though the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has insisted the national team cannot withdraw from the game.

Decades of bitter rivalry between the neighbours often clouds their cricket encounters. India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai which India blamed on Pakistan without providing evidence.

Now they only play each other in international events. The last meeting was at the 50-over World Cup two years ago but even that was at the centre of boycott calls.

The killings of 11 migrant workers and minority Hindus and Sikhs in the occupied region have led to the latest demands made in India, which frequently accuses Pakistan of backing Kashmir pro-freedom groups.

The hashtag #BlacklistPakistan was trending on Twitter late Wednesday.

Rajeev Shukla, the BCCI vice president, said earlier that the country had a contractual obligation to take part.

“We strongly condemn the killings. However, under the International Cricket Council’s commitments, you can’t refuse to play anyone (game),” Shukla told Indian media.

A cabinet minister, Giriraj Singh, had also urged the government to consider intervening to stop the match.

“I think if relations are not good, then this should be reconsidered,” Singh said when questioned about the match.

Other politicians have also joined the calls.

However, India’s badminton great Prakash Padukone said: “sports and politics should not be mixed and according to me it (the India-Pakistan match) should go on.”

India was also urged to boycott the 2019 World Cup game against Pakistan because of a Kashmir suicide bomber attack in February of that year in which more than 40 troops were killed.

Pakistan denied any role in the assault but the two countries came to the brink of war. India won the game which went ahead in June 2019.

India and Pakistan last played a bilateral series in 2013 during a brief thaw in their rivalry.

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