Cricket series with Pak. cancelled

NEW DELHI, NOV. 15. India today cancelled the proposed cricket tour to Pakistan in January next on account of Islamabad's ``hostile propaganda.''

The Foreign Office spokesman in a statement said that a visit by the Indian cricket team to Pakistan at this stage would be ``inappropriate'' on account of ``Pakistan's hostile propaganda and the constant calls for `jehad' against India by the establishment, as well as extremist groups.''

He observed that Pakistan should create a conducive climate, which would generate confidence and guarantee the ``security and welfare'' of the Indian team.

Indo-Pak. relations have frozen after the Kargil war. India has stated that a thaw in the relationship can be achieved after Islamabad demonstrates that it is terminating its support to cross-border terrorists.

The decision to deny permission for the tour came following a meeting between the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee and the Sports Minister, Ms. Uma Bharti, here last night. She said the Prime Minister was of the opinion that the present bilateral relations did not call for such a tour. The Government's decision was communicated to the BCCI.

The Indian Cricket Board will now have to formally inform its Pakistani counterpart about the team's inability to undertake the visit. Pakistan Board had asked the BCCI to respond by today to its invitation.

The Indian cricket squad would have visited Pakistan for a series of tests and one-dayers after 12 years. The last series between the two was when Wasim Akram-led the squad to India early last year. Strained political ties between the two countries had earlier affected the Sahara cup series which had been scheduled in Toronto.

India is slated to play Pakistan and Sri Lanka in a tri-nation series in Sharjah in April next. The Government's assertion that its decision will affect only bilateral cricket matches keeps open the doors for cricket matches between them in third country venues.