By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) – The International Tennis Federation has rejected Pakistan’s appeal against the decision to move its Davis Cup tie with India to a neutral venue and the fixture will be played in Kazakhstan, the Indian tennis association (AITA) told Reuters on Tuesday.
The Asia/Oceania Group I tie, originally scheduled for Sept. 14-15, was postponed by the governing body to Nov. 29-30 following a security review amid political tensions between the bitter neighbors.
Pakistan expelled India’s ambassador and suspended bilateral trade and all public transport links with its neighbor in August after New Delhi removed “special status” from its portion of the contested region of Kashmir.
Earlier this month, the ITF accepted India’s request to shift the tie away from Islamabad but Pakistan appealed.
“The ITF has informed us that Pakistan’s appeal has been rejected and the tie will be held at Astana (renamed Nur-Sultan) in Kazakhstan,” AITA General Secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee said by telephone.
The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
They came close to a third in February after a deadly attack on Indian police by a Pakistan-based militant group resulted in air strikes by both countries.
The ITF decision has not gone down well in Pakistan, with leading player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi deciding to skip the tie in protest.
“The attitude towards Pakistan of both All Indian Tennis Association and ITF is highly deplorable, to say the least,” Qureshi wrote in a letter to Pakistan Tennis Federation chief Salim Saifullah Khan.
“There is absolutely no threat foreseen for Indian tennis team in Pakistan.”
India and Pakistan signed a pact last month allowing Indian pilgrims to cross the border to a Sikh shrine in Pakistan, rare cooperation between the nuclear-armed rivals at a time of tension and clashes elsewhere on their frontier.
Qureshi cited the agreement, which introduced visa-free access from India to the Pakistani town of Kartarpur.
“If everyone else can come including hundreds of other Indians every day then why can’t a few member Indian tennis team visit Pakistan when Pakistan has assured them of extremely high level security protocol,” he said on his Instagram.
“However, if ITF does not correct their wrong decision then as a protest against this unjust, unfair and biased decision I want to raise my voice and hereby announce not to participate in this tie if it takes place outside Pakistan.”
India will be without top singles player Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who is getting married during the tie, while doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna has pulled out due to a shoulder injury.
An Indian tennis team last traveled to Pakistan in 1964 for a Davis Cup tie, defeating the hosts 4-0, while Pakistan lost 3-2 on their last visit to India in 2006.
Other sports have also been affected by the tension, with bilateral cricketing ties suspended since 2008.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)