Last year’s Indo-Pak cricket series was the time for bonhomie. For Pakistani cricket fans eager to watch their team play at Mohali again, it will be a different ball game all together.
The security establishment on Friday put its foot down on demands to raise the cap on visas for cricket fans from Pakistan. Pakistan will play against New Zealand on October 25 and South Africa on October 27.
But numbers is not the only area that reflects the heightened security concerns. The government has also decided against issuing visas in cities like Lahore like last time. Instead, visas will only be issued at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
It will be mandatory for applicants to furnish a copy of the ticket to the match for the visa. Before they get past Indian immigration, the security agencies also want the cricket fans to submit confirmed details of their accommodation in Mohali, Panchkula or Chandigarh.
If they cannot find hotel accommodation on their own – they can live with relatives and friends too - a senior home ministry official said they would be taken to government-run hotels and guesthouses. This, the official hinted, would make their task easier since they can be escorted to the cricket stadium in groups. “Yes, there certainly will be a good level of surveillance – much better than last time - but it will be unobtrusive. Besides, this time every information submitted would be verified, nothing will be taken at a face value”.
The BCCI and Punjab Cricket Association had asked the Prime Minister’s Office to nudge the home ministry to raise the 1,000-visa cap; the BCCI wanted four times as many visas. Representatives of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and PCA met home ministry officials on Friday but could not convince them to raise the limit.
“This meeting was held at the initiative of the PMO,” BCCI vice president Rajiv Shukla said after the meeting at the Union home ministry. Shukla attributed the home ministry’s reluctance to increase the numbers to reports of 54 Pakistanis – who had entered India to watch the cricket match – going missing.