A war of words broke out between India and Pakistan on July 28 after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad announced that the Pakistani team will not participate in the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai as India passed the torch relay of the event through Jammu and Kashmir. An official statement from Islamabad described the torch relay through Kashmir as a "travesty" and called upon India to free political prisoners in the Valley. The Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi, described Pakistan's decision as "surprising" as the move came after the Pakistani team had reportedly started its journey to Chennai.
"Pakistan condemns India's mischievous attempt to mix politics with sports. As a protest, Pakistan has decided not to participate in the 44th Chess Olympiad and will also raise the matter with the International Chess Federation at the highest level," said Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the statement. The torch relay passed through Kashmir's capital Srinagar on June 21.
The Pakistani contingent did not participate in the colourful opening ceremony of the Chess Olympiad that was inaugurated in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on Thursday evening in Chennai.
"By passing the torch relay through IIOJK (Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir), in utter disregard of the globally acknowledged "disputed" status of the territory, India has committed a travesty that the international community cannot accept under any circumstances. India must know that by such provocative and indefensible actions, it can neither seek nor claim international legitimacy for its unjustifiable, illegal and tyrannical occupation of IIOJK continuing for over 7 decades," said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan in a statement.
‘An integral part of India’
The announcement from Islamabad came two days after the Chess Federation of Pakistan (CFP) said a ten-member Pakistani chess team would travel to Chennai to participate in the 44th Chess Olympiad. Conveying India's position, Mr. Bagchi said in response, "It is surprising that Pakistan has taken the decision to not participate in the FIDE chess Olympiad, particularly after its team has reached India. Insofar as their argument being given on Jammu and Kashmir — the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir have been ours and will remain an integral part of India. It is highly unfortunate that Pakistan has politicised a prestigious international event by making such statements and withdrawing its participation."