India on Tuesday granted permission to two out of the seven Pakistani officials who wanted to visit Kolkata to oversee arrangements for their team’s participation in a high-voltage World T20 clash with India, triggering an angry protest from Islamabad.
Officials of the Pakistan high commission said permission had been sought for the seven officials well in time so they could travel to Kolkata to liaise with state and central government officials and the Pakistani team.
“However, till 3.30pm today, there was no permission for all seven officials who had already booked flights and hotel rooms in Kolkata. Later, we learnt that permission has been given to only two. But it will be difficult for them to travel at such short notice,” said an official who did not want to be named.
The officials further said permission had also not yet been granted for high commissioner Abdul Basit to travel to Kolkata to watch the game on March 19.
It is learnt that the five Pakistani officials were denied permission because they belong to the Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the military. Sources on the Indian side said permission would be granted for the Pakistani envoys’ visit.
The Foreign Office in Islamabad conveyed its “concerns and disappointment” to India’s deputy high commissioner over telephone, the officials said. They added the deputy high commissioner was likely to be called in to register a formal protest.
The officials said the staff of the Pakistani high commission had been divided into several teams that would oversee arrangements at Kolkata and Mohali for their team’s games.
“This development is unfortunate and shocking. India is the host of the World Cup and sports should be used to foster better relations. Instead, we are facing hurdles,” an official said.
There was considerable confusion about the Pakistani team’s participation in the tournament after Islamabad raised security concerns. The Pakistan government finally allowed the team to travel to India after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and home minister Rajanth Singh said adequate steps would be taken for the players’ security.