The India-Pakistan hockey series next month has been cancelled after the Indian government refused to give its permission.

India was scheduled to host the Pakistan men’s hockey team from April 5-15 for a five-match Test series across Ranchi, Lucknow, New Delhi, Mohali and Jalandhar, followed by a return tour to Pakistan in May.

The decision was taken by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) after the recent attack on CRPF personnel in Srinagar and the Pakistan Parliament passing a resolution condemning the hanging of Afzal Guru.

“We got a fax from the MEA late on Thursday evening stating that it was not giving permission for the series and asking us not to host the country or visit it for the time being. Protocol demands we seek a no-objection certificate from the Sports Ministry, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the MEA. We had clearances from the first two but not the third,” Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra said.

Asked if the series might be held later, Mr. Batra said it was unlikely this year given the team’s tight schedule. “The series was supposed to be part of the team’s preparations for the Hockey World League Round 3 in June. But now most likely there will only be an extended camp for the players,” he said. The Pakistan hockey team last toured India in 2006.

India coach Michael Nobbs said the decision was sad for the fans. “They would have got to see some exciting hockey between the two teams, so in that sense it is a disappointing decision. But these are not issues in our control,” he said from Ipoh, where the team is participating in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

This is the second sporting engagement between the two countries to be called off in recent times after government refusal. Last month, an Indian snooker team was refused permission to travel to Pakistan.

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