Home Ministry meet to decide on types of visas on Monday

The Home Ministry and security agencies have swung into action to complete the modalities for issuing visas to Pakistani cricket fans visiting India for the limited-over series later this year.

According to sources in the Ministry, India is likely to give 5,000 visas to Pakistani nationals but only after due diligence and by following stricter guidelines.

“On earlier occasions, India has been liberal in granting visas to Pakistani nationals… but this time Indian agencies want to take extra precaution in allowing cricket fans from the neighbouring country following revelations that Pakistan-based terror groups had sent their operatives to India earlier to do recce to possible targets,” a senior Ministry official said.

From next week, senior Ministry officials will hold a series of deliberations with their counterparts in the External Affairs Ministry, besides security and intelligence agencies to prepare a road map for issuing visas to Pakistani nationals for the cricket series.

“On Monday, a high-level meeting will take place at the Home Ministry to decide on types of visas and other guidelines to be adopted. As there will be various matches, it will also be decided whether to give Pakistani fans a match-specific visa or for the entire series…it is crucial to ensure that Pakistani fans do no disappear during their stay in India,” the official said.

The Home Ministry has formed a special committee that includes Additional Secretaries Khurshid Ahmed Ganai and K. Skandan to look into all issues. Home Secretary R.K. Singh has already held deliberations with BCCI officials and assured them all help, in terms of security preparedness and logistical support, to ensure successful completion of the much-awaited sporting event.

The India-Pakistan comprises three ODIs and two Twenty-20 Internationals that will be played between December 2012 and January 2013. The ODIs are likely to be played in Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi, while India would host Twenty-20 matches in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Accordingly, the Ministry officials will hold meetings with the civil and the police administrations of the respective State governments.

Post 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, India severed cricketing ties with Pakistan, though both nations have been playing matches in various competitions at neutral venues. They have not played a bilateral series since Pakistan’s tour of India in 2007. However, in the Cricket World Cup semi-final in Mohali last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his then Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani watched the match.

Sena, MNS oppose matches

Mumbai Staff Reporter writes:

The Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena on Thursday vehemently expressed their opposition to the Pakistan cricket team’s tour to the country next month, terming it a matter of “national shame.”

In an editorial in his party mouthpiece Saamna, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray castigated the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government as “an enemy of national pride.”

The Sena chief also came down heavily on the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), accusing it of “betraying the country for [the] sake of money” and making Indian cricketers a part of that process of betrayal. “Except for Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar, no cricketer has opposed playing cricket with Pakistan,” said Mr. Thackeray.

Alluding to Pakistan’s role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike and the 2001 Parliament attack, Mr. Thackeray said allowing Pakistan cricketers to play on Indian soil was tantamount to insulting the martyred jawans.

“By allowing them to play, we are not valuing the blood spilled by them [Indian jawans] in our battles against Pakistani aggression.”

He also censured Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, as he had “offered his services to Pakistan,” by giving the green signal for the tour.

MNS chief Raj Thackeray, Mr. Thackeray’s nephew, has also vociferously opposed the tour. “Raj saheb had already declared that we will not allow any India-Pakistan match to be played in Maharashtra,” said MNS MLA Shishir Shinde.

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